As I rode past one of my favorite Mexican restaurants on Cinco de Mayo, I noticed the patio was heaving, and intoxicating smells were wafting towards me. With no reservations, my chances of getting even a few chips and salsa were slim. Luckily, my friend Jen, who had just been to Chicago for dinner a couple of weeks back, had sent me her favorite spicy Mexican shredded pork (Tinga) recipe from Cook's Illustrated. As a huge fan of Rick Bayless (you can try his recipe as well), she swears by it and claimed it's similar to Rick's.
Any time I use a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, apart from the fact that my cousin Becky is a chef on America's Test Kitchen, I know the recipes and ingredients are tried and true. For example, when making tostadas, you can either fry them or bake them, but they urge you to buy a corn tortilla with no preservatives with ingredients made up only of corn, lime and salt.
I did use the traditional method of frying the tostadas, but a few splatters of hot oil burns on my arm will probably lead me to the baking method in the future (and the fact that it means less oil used).
I do wish that I had this recipe when I was living in London. The lack of authentic Mexican food seriously depressed me. Good jarred salsa was difficult to come by. I learned to make a good roasted chile salsa, a lovely chicken tortilla soup, and a mean batch of guacamole, but these tostadas would have seriously pepped me up.
The chipotle powder can be substituted with a 2 minced canned chipotles, but Cook's Illustrated swears by the powder. I used pasilla chile powder from Dean & Deluca (which you can order) as it was part of a Mexican spice set I had in my pantry. It also included Mexican oregano, which I used here, so keep that in mind as well.
I made enough pork for 4-6 people so that the two of us had some leftovers. You can use them in burritos or tacos, or serve it re-heated, like I did, with some Mexican rice and a cold beer.
Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork (Tinga) Tostadas
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
2 lbs of boneless pork butt, cut into 1 inch cubes (trimmed of fat, it should be 1 1/2 lbs)
2 medium onions, one quartered, one chopped fine
5 medium garlic cloves, three peeled and smashed and two minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
1 x 14.5 oz can tomato sauce (plain - I used passata)
1 tbsp chipotle powder
2 fresh bay leaves
For the tostadas:
12 x 6 inch corn tortillas
3/4 cup of vegetable oil (if using the frying method)
4 tbsp of vegetable oil (if baking)
queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled
diced tomatoes and onions
Bring the pork, the quartered onion, 6 cups of water, smashed garlic cloves, thyme and 1 tsp of salt to a rapid simmer and then turn down to a low- simmer. Cook for 75-90 minutes until the pork is tender, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.
Reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid, drain the pork and discard the onion, garlic and thyme. Return to the pan and using a potato masher, mash until shredded into 1/2 inch pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the pork, chopped onion and oregano. Turn often and cook for about 7- 10 minutes until the pork is well browned.
Make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the minced garlic for about 30 seconds and then add the tomato sauce, chipotle powder, reserved cooking liquid and bay leaves.
Leave to simmer until most of the liquid disappears, about 5-7 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and season with salt to taste.
Prepare your tostadas by either frying them (traditional method) or baking (better for you method.) Both have a similar outcome, so I would recommend baking.
Frying: Heat vegetable oil in frying pan until 350 degrees. Poke each of your tortillas in the center with a fork 3-4 times to prevent puffing and to allow them to cook evenly on both sides.
Add the tortillas (one at a time) to the oil and use the potato masher to hold them down. They should take about 45-40 seconds each (no need for turning) and then you can drain them on a plate with paper towels. Repeat until all are cooked.
Baking: Preheat your oven to 450F. Place each tortilla in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets. Brush both sides with a little vegetable oil and place a wire rack up-side down on top of the tortillas to keep them flat.
Bake for 15-18 minutes on the upper and lower-middle racks of your oven, switching them half way through the baking process. Tortillas should be golden brown and crisp, ready to top with your tinga and garnishes.