Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pineapple Pork Mexican-Wannabe Salad

In Utah where I spent the last several years, there are a few "Fresh Mexican" restaurants, all of which are identical except for a few trivial differences. Notwithstanding, there is an enormous feud as to the quality of one versus the others. Now I have strong opinions about which is best, but this isn't the medium for that debate. They're all pretty good, but being on the east coast now, I can't feed my pork salad addiction in the same way I did in Utah. This is kind of a collection of the best of several different restaurants, but I quite like the outcome.

The term 'salad' is used loosely here; it's really more of an open burrito with lots of lettuce and toppings, but I don't complain about the semantics: I just eat.

I'll warn you on this one, it has a lot of different components, all of which need to be ready as the same time. Make what you can in advance (I find a slow cooker and a rice maker indispensable). This looks like a whole lot: it can be simplified by substituting ready-made ingredients for the salsa, guacamole, salad dressing, etc.

"Fresh Mexican" Pork Salad

  • 8 - 10 tortillas
  • 1 - 2 cans black beans
  • 1 - 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped into thin strips
  • Pineapple pork roast
    • 1 medium pork roast (about 2 pounds)
    • 1 can pineapple tidbits
    • a few splashes or Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 2 - 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • Salt and pepper
  • Cilantro lime rice
    • 3 -4 cups white rice
    • water, salt, and butter to follow rice-maker's instructions
    • a few sprigs fresh cilantro
    • 1 -2 tablespoons lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Caramelized onions
    • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into half-rings
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 -3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Tomatillo ranch dressing
    • 1 packet buttermilk ranch dressing mix
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 2/3 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cut mayonaise
    • 1 large tomatillo
    • A splash of lime juice
    • A few springs cilantro
  • Lime wedges and cilantro sprigs, to garnish

I'm going to take you through these instructions in order of how I would do them.

The day before (or any spare time during the day):
  • Pico de gallo: make it and put it in an airtight container in the fridge
  • Tomatillo ranch dressing: combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until very smooth. Put in a container and refrigerate
The morning of the meal
  • The pork: put all the roast ingredients in a crock pot or slow cooker set on low (for about 6 - 8 hours). Just let it sit throughout the day: you want it to be very tender and juicy. You should be able to just pull it apart with tongs.
1-2 hours before the meal
  • Cilantro lime rice: put all the rice ingredients in a rice cooker and let 'er rip (I love rice cookers)
  • Guacamole: assemble the guac, cover with a little more lime juice, and refrigerate it in an airtight container (you really don't want it to go brown)
10 minutes before the meal
  • Black beans: empty the beans, juice and all, into a small saucepan and let simmer on low until heated well through
  • Onions: melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the onions and brown sugar. Stir-fry until the onions are translucent and a golden brown.
This is how I assemble my salad: put a tortilla in a large cereal bowl, add the rice, beans, pork, and onions (all the warm ingredients). Then add the lettuce, cheese, salsa, guacamole, ranch dressing, and squeeze the lime juice over top.


Alexandra said...

Not to meddle, but I love to meddle, so wouldn't it be a wise (not necessarily more wise than your original recipe, mind you) choice to put the cheese on the tortilla before the warm ingredients so it gets all nice and melty? Not that there's anything wrong with cold shredded cheese on a salad, but Newton's law of cooling is going to all make it the same temperature anyway, so why not just melt it initially instead of letting it get slightly soft and condensationy? Just an opinion which you may or may not choose to acknowledge.

Bradley said...

Now, this is a comment I will acknowledge. The aforementioned restaurants usually put the cheese on the tortilla and melt it while cooking the tortilla. I actually debated this point a little (which is kind of ridiculous that I spent a long time debating whether the cheese goes above or below the lettuce), but personal preference puts it on top. However, I have nothing against melty cheese, and blasted enthalpy will drag it all to neutral anyway in the end.