Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas

Shane calls me every day when he leaves the office and we spend a few minute chatting about our days. He’s usually either heading to the gym or to the pool to workout and won’t be home for hours, so it’s a nice chance to say hi and catch-up. One question I know I’m always going to hear during that conversation is “What’s for dinner?” I like to surprise him so 99% of the time I don’t actually reveal what I’m making, instead letting him find out when he walks through the door later. He keeps asking every day though, so I guess he holds out hope I’ll stop keeping him in suspense :)

At least once a week, if I were to answer, the response would be Mexican food. Without fail, I find myself adding at least one Mexican dish to the menu every week. It’s something we both love equally and I tend to keep a lot of the staples on hand in our pantry so it doesn’t require buying a ton of stuff at the grocery store. Also, I rarely find that I have to modify the recipes to make them suit both of our tastes, which is a major bonus. With Cinco de Mayo approaching, I took the liberty of including more Mexican dishes on our menu than usual, but I don’t think I’ll be hearing any complaints about that.

Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas

Given my love for shredded pork, I was really excited about these tostadas. The recipe is a little bit time consuming but several of the components can be made ahead of time, and had I done that, it would definitely qualify as a weeknight meal. The pork is cut into cubes and simmered until tender, then shredded. The shredded meat is sauteed in a skillet until browned and crisp, and then a smoky tomato sauce is built for it. Corn tortillas are fried to make the tostadas that the pork sits on, and while we loved them, this meat would be good in so many other ways if you didn’t feel like frying – in tacos, on burritos, even on its own! The pork was really flavorful and the level of heat was perfect for me. I bought queso blanco for the first time to use on our tostadas and am now in love. (Side note: I think there’s a queso blanco dip floating around the web that I definitely need to try.) If it’s not obvious, this meal was a giant hit here, and will likely be a repeat before long!

Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas
from Cook’s Illustrated

Shredded Pork
2 lb boneless pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium onions, 1 quartered and 1 chopped fine
5 medium garlic cloves, 3 peeled and smashed and 2 minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
2 canned chipotle chiles, minced
2 bay leaves

Tostadas
3/4 cup canola oil
corn tortillas
salt

To Serve
cheese (we used Queso Blanco)
sour cream
cilantro
lime wedges
(or your favorites)

To make the shredded pork: In a large saucepan, combine the pork, the quartered onion (save the diced for later), the smashed garlic cloves (save the minced for later), the thyme, salt and 6 cups of water. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, using a spoon to skim any foam that rises to the surface. When you reach a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pan and continue cooking until the pork is fork tender, about 75-90 minutes. Drain the pork, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic, and thyme, then return the pork to the saucepan and use a potato masher to mash/shred the pork into smaller pieces. (Note: you can refrigerate the pork for up to 2 days at this point before continuing with the recipe.)

Set a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the shredded pork, chopped onion, and oregano. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pork is browned and crisp, about 7-10 minutes. Make a small well in the center of the pan and add the garlic, cooking just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce, chipotle chiles, bay leaves and reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook until nearly all of the liquid evaporates, about 7 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and season the pork to taste with salt.

To make the tostadas: Add the oil to an 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet set over medium heat. Heat the oil to 350 F. Using a fork, poke the center of each tortilla 3-4 times. Fry the tortillas, one at a time, using a metal potato masher (or other metal implement – I used my spider strainer) to keep the tortilla submerged in the oil. If you do that, there’s no need to flip it. Cook for 45-60 seconds, or until the tortilla is crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Repeat with all tortillas. (Note: how many tortillas you’ll need depends on a lot of factors such as how many people you’re serving and how much meat you pile on each. The original recipe called for 12, but we loaded our tostadas up and only had enough meat for 8. You can make the tostadas up to one day ahead of time and store in an airtight container at room temp.)

To serve: Place some of the shredded pork in the center of a tostada and top with cheese and your favorite garnishes.