Carnitas Tacos for Cinco de Mayo

From Spoon: Growing up, all I knew about Mexican food was what I thought of as tacos – those crispy corn shells (that always shattered when you took a bite), stuffed with ground beef seasoned with mystery spices from a packet, shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and if we were going really exotic, avocado. And although I’ve now eaten Mexican food at higher-end places like (the original) Rosa Mexicano in Manhattan and casual joints -  Taco Trio in South Portland, Maine (those are Ted’s photos on their website) and my favorite converted diner car dive in Paterson, NJ, I know there’s so much more to Mexican cuisine than enchiladas and guacamole.

I’ve never been to Mexico City, but Ted has, and he’s often talked about the abundance of incredible street food there. So when chef Ivy Stark‘s book, “Dos Caminos Mexican Street Food”, landed on my desk at The Record, I thought using one of her recipes would be perfect for a Cinco de Mayo column.

I met Ivy last year at the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, and I was impressed not only with the food she was serving from the Dos Caminos booth at an outdoor event, but that this enthusiastic, personable woman presides over a group of lauded Mexican restaurants – there are 6 of them in total. I was even more excited about using the book when I read a reference to the “The Pooh Cookbook,” in her introduction -  Ivy, the “Popovers for Piglet” page in mine is well-thumbed too!

It was hard to choose a recipe, but having had Ted’s carnitas tacos a couple of times, I wanted to try Ivy’s very different preparation. Ted’s cook on top of the stove, and are just pork simmered in lard; Ivy’s include orange juice, Coke, condensed milk and spices and spend most of their cooking time in the oven. Yes, the recipe calls for 8 pounds of lard, which I’m sure will freak some readers out (Hi Mom). But somehow, the lard pulls the fat out of the pork, giving it tenderness and flavor without greasiness. The recipe isn’t complicated, just a little time-consuming, and it makes a lot. The roasted serrano pepper salsa is super hot (for me) but an important component of the tacos, which are the real thing.

The column and recipe are HERE.

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