Do you know the meaning of Cinco de Mayo? It’s a holiday that commemorates when the Mexican army defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla against overwhelming odds in 1862. Puebla and many U.S. cities have huge celebrations with parades, festivals and dancing. And, of course, food.
Each year I observe this holiday with an array of fabulous Mexican food, such as these citrus-marinated pork tacos enhanced with side dishes of guacamole, sour cream and salsa. The marinade brings out the sweetness of the pork along with a zesty touch of oregano and cumin. They are always a major crowd-pleaser.
In California, you can find every type of taco imaginable, including turkey, duck, filet of beef — even sweetbreads. Pork tacos are my favorite. The distinctive arrangement of the ingredients on the plate is characteristically Californian.
Marinated grilled pork is cut into bite-size pieces and, along with guacamole, sour cream, grilled green onions, cilantro and salsas, is arranged colorfully and artistically. The fresh corn tortillas are soft, so they can be rolled with the filling ingredients inside. The meat is best when barbecued but it can also be roasted. Although beer and margaritas work well, a crisp fume blanc is also refreshing.
Pork Tacos, California Style
For the marinade:
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper
For the taco:
- 2 pounds eye of loin of pork
- 6 green onions
- 12 small fresh corn tortillas
- 1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed
- 1 cup guacamole
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup favorite tomato salsa like pico de gallo
- 1 cup tomatillo salsa
1. Combine marinade ingredients in medium bowl. Whisk until blended.
2. Place pork in shallow nonaluminum dish and pour marinade over. Marinate for 6 to 12 hours.
3. Cut through the green part of the onion, making 2 slits all the way down to where the white part begins. This will give the onions a fan shape.
4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Grill pork about 3 inches from the flame for 20 to 25 minutes on each side or until the interior temperature is 160 F (test with a meat thermometer). Baste green onions with marinade and grill about 3 minutes on each side. Remove meat and onions from barbecue and cut meat into small chunks.
5. Wrap tortillas in foil and warm in oven for about 10 minutes. Keep warm.
6. On outer edges of individual serving plates arrange a few sprigs of cilantro, a large dollop of guacamole and a large dollop of sour cream. Place 2 warmed tortillas on side of each plate and arrange meat and grilled scallions in center. Pass both types of salsa in separate bowls. Serve immediately.
Advance Preparation: The dish may be prepared up to 4 hours ahead through Step 4 and kept in refrigerator. To reheat meat, place in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Stir meat to brown and heat through. Reheat scallions in the hot skillet.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)