I’ve been getting quite the education on Mexican food and culture at work, since many of the kitchen staff and runners are from Mexico. Every Sunday, during their break between brunch and dinner, one of the runners picks up tacos and tortas from a nearby Mexican joint for the staff. My favorite is carnitas, or slow roasted pork, with a simple traditional garnish of lettuce, onions, cilantro, lime, and a choice of red or green salsa.
At home, I like to make soft tacos with braised pork belly. Yes, pork belly has become almost a culinary cliche and it seems every day another restaurant in the city jumps on the bandwagon. But it is a wonderfully forgiving and flavorful cut of meat and slow braising pork belly makes it ultra tender and moist. It is the cut of pork that bacon is made from, so there is a lot of fat, but slow braising renders out a good deal of it anyway. The acidity of salsa verde, pickled onion, and lime juice, and the bright citrusy flavor of cilantro balance out the rest. This recipe is adapted from a demonstration given by Aaron Sanchez at the French Culinary Institute while I was a student there.
You will note that the recipe calls for annatto paste. Derived from the seed pods of the achiote tree, it is commonly used in Central and South American cooking to add color and flavor. I find it adds more color than flavor so you can omit it if you don’t have any on hand. Incidentally, annatto is also the pigment that gives Cheddar cheese it’s orange glow.
Link to the full Recipe: Braised Pork Belly Tacos