2000s Recipes + Menus

Pork Kebabs al Pastor

  • Active time:1 hr
  • Start to finish:1 1/4 hr
June 2008
A popular taco filling in Mexico, pork al pastor is usually cooked in a huge slab on a vertical rotisserie (like Middle Eastern shawarma) and sliced off to order, so that the outside bits are crisp and golden and the inside is juicy and tender. Cooks often stick an onion or a pineapple on top of the rotisserie so that its juices drip down over the well-seasoned meat. Pineapple takes a more central role in this grilled version: The puréed fruit sweetens the basting sauce, while chunks of it join the pork and onion on the skewers. A homemade salsa and an array of accompaniments invite guests to get in on the action.

Learn the story behind this dish in our column, The Recipe.

For basting sauce and salsa

  • 3 dried chiles de árbol, wiped clean
  • 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 lb tomatoes (4 medium), halved
  • 1 small white onion (6 to 8 oz), quartered
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

For kebabs

  • 2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 cups (1-inch) chunks fresh pineapple
  • 16 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Equipment:

    12 (12-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes
  • Accompaniments:

    fresh cilantro; lime wedges; thinly sliced radishes

Make pineapple basting sauce:

  • Heat a dry small heavy skillet over medium heat until hot, then toast chiles, turning and pressing with tongs, until more pliable and slightly changed in color, about 30 seconds. Stem chiles.
  • Purée 1 chile (reserve remainder for salsa) in a blender with pineapple, vinegar, oil, garlic, oregano, cumin, and 1 3/4 tsp salt, then transfer to a bowl.

Make salsa:

  • Preheat broiler.
  • Oil a small baking pan, then add tomatoes and onion. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat, turning occasionally, until tomatoes are wilted, skins are blistered, and onions begin to soften and are charred in spots, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer to blender. Add remaining 2 toasted chiles, water, and 1 tsp salt and purée until smooth. Add cilantro and 1/2 cup pineapple basting sauce and pulse until cilantro is finely chopped.

Make kebabs:

  • Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas); see “Grilling Procedure.”
  • Toss pork with half of remaining pineapple basting sauce, then thread pork, onion, and pineapple onto skewers, leaving small spaces between pieces. Put on a tray. Wrap tortillas in 2 separate foil packages.
  • Oil grill rack, then grill skewers, covered only if using a gas grill, turning and basting frequently with remaining sauce (do not baste during last 3 minutes), until pork is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and keep warm, covered.
  • Heat tortillas (in foil) on grill, turning once, until warmed through, about 3 minutes total.
  • Remove pork, pineapple, and onion from skewers. Serve wrapped in tortillas with salsa and other accompaniments.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Skewers can be cooked in batches in a hot well-oiled large (2-burner) ridged grill pan.
  • Pineapple basting sauce and salsa can be made 3 days ahead and chilled separately.
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