ATK/CI Disapointment - Shredded Pork Tostadas
I recently watched the episode of America's Test Kitchen featuring spicy shredded pork tostadas which was published in the March 2010 issue of Cook's Illustrated. Christopher Kimball says it's one of the top 5 recipes in 11 years of doing the show. After following the recipe exactly last night, I was greatly disappointed. The pork was bland. The meal was by no means inedible, but I certainly wouldn't put it in the top 5 of ATK/CI recipes.
Anyone else been disapointed by this recipe? I wouldn't make a big deal of it if Chris hadn't made such a bold statement.
Is it this rendition?
< Why this recipe works: True Mexican shredded pork, or tinga, is a far cry from the bland burrito-joint version often found languishing on steam tables. We set out to perfect the methods that give tinga its characteristic crisp texture and smoky tomato flavor. We wanted tender, full-flavored Mexican shredded pork that we could serve atop crisp corn tortillas or spoon into taco shells.
We trimmed and cubed a Boston butt (chosen for its good marbling and little sinew), then simmered the pieces in water that we flavored with garlic, thyme, and onion. Once the pork was tender, we drained the meat (reserving some of the cooking liquid for the sauce) and returned it to the pot to shred. The meat was so tender, it fell apart with nothing more than the pressure of a potato masher. We then sautéed the meat in a hot frying pan along with the requisite additions of finely chopped onion and oregano. Minutes later, the pork had developed crackling edges crisp enough to survive the final step of simmering in tomato sauce. Unlike American barbecue with its sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, tinga relies on a complex smoke-flavored tomato sauce. For our version, we diluted canned tomato sauce with the reserved flavorful cooking liquid from the pork and added bay leaves for herbal complexity. And for tinga’s all-important smokiness, we turned to ground chipotle powder, which is a little harder to find than the other option of canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, but is has a deeper, more complex flavor.>
If so, I could see how just poaching the pork in water laced with nothing butt (sic-- LOL) onion garlic and thyme would give you a bland pork base to start with. Especailly with no salt or strong flavors.
The flat top griddle with teh herbs and the red sauce simmering at the end of the process (the longer he better for pork) may yield a great final flavor, but with no salt or reduced fat flavor in the pork (actually, the poaching removes the fat and that porky flavoring) I can understand the pitfalls of that process.
My parents use to boil in plain water baby back ribs til done, then slather on homemade BBQ sauce, and always wonder why I liked the sauce more than the $4.99 lb waterlogged flavorless ribs. :-)
If the poaching removes fat and porky flavor, then that liquid, after some reduction should have an intense pork flavor, right? One approach to carnitas is to completely reduce the poaching liquid while the meat is still in it, and letting the meat crisp in its own rendered fat.
But it isn't clear that dry roasting, how ever slow, retains more fat or pork flavor. If the final product weighs less than the initial roast, it has lost fat and meat juices. Some of those juices have evaporated at the surface, leaving some proteins to caramelize and add flavor. But for some reason BBQ cooks still insist on applying a heavily seasoned dry rub, and some even inject their meat with a flavored liquid.
In any case, the most of the flavor in the ATK recipe comes from the sauce that is added at the end. If the final product is still bland, I suspect that the sauce was not adequately seasoned, esp. with salt.
<<<<If the poaching removes fat and porky flavor, then that liquid, after some reduction should have an intense pork flavor, right? One approach to carnitas is to completely reduce the poaching liquid while the meat is still in it, and letting the meat crisp in its own rendered fat.
But it isn't clear that dry roasting, how ever slow, retains more fat or pork flavor. If the final product weighs less than the initial roast, it has lost fat and meat juices. Some of those juices have evaporated at the surface, leaving some proteins to caramelize and add flavor. But for some reason BBQ cooks still insist on applying a heavily seasoned dry rub, and some even inject their meat with a flavored liquid>>>
No. Reducing the poaching liquid would intensify the flavor, but not until reduced to the point of the BRAISED style carnitas you mention.
Poaching is generally a means by which to ensure doneness, and is not necessrialy the best way to impart flavor to what is being poached (assuming in a water based liquid) unless that liquid is concentrated or heavily flavored.
As for cooking meat, dry roasting is VERY clearly a process of loosing moisture and melting fats (some of which are lost, others not) to gain a more concentrated (and if done well still moist) final product and flavor. While partially correct, I'd suggest you do a little more reading on how the process works and the science behind it .
That is the recipe I followed. There was a bit of salt in the initial cooking liquid and it needed more in the final product, but it was still bland. I think it needs more spices as well. There's a bunch of it left over so I'm going to doctor it up a bit tonight with a bit of chili powder and cumin perhaps. Any other ideas?
Glad to know, I saw that episode too. But I saw this one on Everyday Foods a few years ago and have made it many times. It is braised in a tomato, chipotle, onion, etc sauce and is very good. I actually use country style ribs cut up because they're on sale a lot.
Without knowing where the final ingredients stand, I guess we have a fork in the road.
If the meat is still separate from the sauce, I'd carmelize til brown a half or whole onion cut into slices in a little oil and add to the meat to add depth. Then prolly some cumin, chile powder and salt to taste. Bump of the heat if you feel the need. Then doctor the sauce to make it acceptable and then do the fry and combine process. Fresh cilantro added to the end product would add some brightness along with fresh lemon.
If everything is combined in one pot with both meat and sauce, then I'd do the same process but maybe add in small increments a small can of hatch red enchilada sauce as an easy fix or start adding depth of flavor ingredients like recaito cactus based base, coffee(espresso powder or strong brewed coffe) or canned chipotles in adobo. There's always dark beer, allspice, oregano and cinnamon as well,
Without tasting it it's hard to tell where it needs to be but slowly but surely I;m sure you can get it tasty.
I;ve been to the Momocho Restaurant in Cleveland OH and have been making their ancho coffee brisket tacos for some time at home. I've substituted both pork and even a chuck roast with fabulous results. I've got a lb. of it in my freezer right now. Just something to think about to keep ya cooking.
Momocho Ancho Coffee Beef Brisket Tacos
Great beef taco recipe which makes 12-15 tacos
* 2 1⁄2 lb beef brisket, quartered and trimmed of fat
* 1⁄8 c ancho chile powder or 1-2 dried peppers
* 1⁄2 t ground cinnamon
* 3 T kosher salt
* 1⁄2 c red wine vinegar
* 3 c tomato juice, unseasoned
* 1⁄8 c lime juice (about 2 limes
) * 1 c red wine
* 2 T freshly ground guatemalan coffee
* 1⁄2 T black pepper
* 1 bay leaf
* 1⁄2 spanish or yellow onion, quartered
* corn tortillas
1. In a small bowl, mix the ancho powder, cinnamon, coffee, and 2 tablespoons salt together. On a large plate or baking sheet, rub the seasoning all over the surface of the brisket pieces. On a grill, or in a large cast iron pan over medium heat, place the seasoned brisket to sear and caramelize the spices, 6 to 8 minutes per side. It should smell toasty, not burned.
2. In a braising pan or heavy bottom Dutch oven or other heavy pot, add the quartered brisket, red wine vinegar, tomato juice, lime juice, red wine, 1 tablespoon salt, black pepper, bay leaves, and the onion.
3. Add water to cover the brisket, then cover the braising pan with the lid or foil and place it on the stove top. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, simmering covered for 3 hours or until the brisket is tender. Remove the bay leaf and onion. Remove the meat and shred. Use the reserved liquid to reheat. (I remove fat and reduce to sauce consistancy and often add a touch of honey to sweeten)
4. To serve, put about 2 to 3 ounces of meat on a warm corn tortilla, topped with Tomatillo Salsa, avocado or guacamole, crumbled queso fresco, and lime wedges.
- Tomatillo salsa
- Lime wedges
This was also featured in a segment of FoodTV a while back.
I think poaching any meat does absolutely nothing for it's flavor, especially meat for a Mexican dish such as this.
Do yourself a favor, and rub down the pork roast with liberal amounts of kosher salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika. Let it sit in your fridge ( I do it uncovered to dry it out a bit since it helps immensely in browning) but you can cover it in plastic wrap too, if you're paranoid or don't have enough space in your fridge to let air circulate around it, for a day or three, and then roast it uncovered on medium low heat, like 300 or 325 until done, and crispy brown on the outside.
Make your sauce, shred your meat and VOILA! Awesome carnitas for tacos, tostadas, burritos or anything else your little heart desires. You certainly won't be complaining it was bland after trying it this way.