If you are unfamiliar with the work of photographer Tim Robison, I will take acute pleasure in the introduction. Tim's photographs are beautiful, ethereal and conjure memories of strolls through museums consuming works of Dutch masters. He is a southern boy who has recently found himself in New York City - but his love of the South and it's riches permeates in his work. Luckily for us not only can he shoot, he can cook...
"As soon as the weather turns warm I’ll invite my friends over to the house, we sit outside, open a beer and we make these tacos. You see, I love tacos. Any kind of taco. But especially these pork tacos. They are so easy to make and packed with flavor. The pork comes out fall-off-the-bone tender, the cabbage and bacon add the perfect tang and crunch, while the grilled jalapeno finishes out the taco with the perfect amount of heat. To me these crispy pickled pork tacos taste like summer. I’ll make a quick homemade salsa, some chips and a side of spicy skillet corn and we are set for the night. Try these tacos, I promise you’ll love them!"
CRISPY PICKLED PORK TACOS
- 5 to 8 lb pork shoulder or Boston butt.
- One head red cabbage
- One large red onion—or two small
- 2 white onions
- One bunch of cilantro
- 2 medium sized jalapenos
- Couple limes
- 1 lb good quality bacon
- 1 large can crisp sweet corn, or 1 ½ cups fresh corn off cob
- Corn tortillas (flour are ok, but corn is best)
- A good quality dark beer (something you would drink)
- Small bottle of your favorite hot sauce.
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup pepper
- ¼ cup cumin
- ¼ cup garlic powder
- ¼ cup lemon pepper
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
Rinse and pat dry the pork shoulder. Evenly coat shoulder with rub and massage in to meat. Adding any leftover rub on fat-top side of meat. Place meat in smoker fat side up (or on a medium-hot grill over indirect heat). Smoke for 4 hours, checking every 30 minutes for ample smoke. (Note: I smoke with hickory and cherry wood for nice flavor. Make sure to soak wood several hours before placing over coals.)
Remove shoulder and place in large dutch oven pan. Chop white onions into large chunks and place around shoulder in pan. Add beer half way up onions (about one bottle). Cover with lid and place in 300 degree oven for 4 more hours checking every hour (oven time can vary depending on size of pork shoulder. If on the smaller size check meat after 3 hrs).
When pork bone removes clean, and meat pulls apart easily, shred into large chunks using forks. (Do not chop or cut meat!) There will be amazing pan drippings left from the meat. Remove the layer of grease and spoon the remaining drippings over pork to keep it moist.
PICKED CABBAGE SLAW:
Slice red cabbage and red onions into ¼ inch slices and set aside.
Warm 1/4 cup white sugar in 1 cup water until dissolved. Let cool.
Add cooled simple syrup to 2/3 cup of white distilled vinegar.
Dash of salt and pepper.
1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce.
Pour marinade over cabbage and onions, cover and let marinade for several hours in refrigerator (overnight is best.)
SPICY SKILLET CORN
Render 1 lb bacon in large skillet until crispy (cast iron works best).
While bacon cooks, char or grill jalapeno until soft and skin blisters. Remove ribs and seeds and chop finely.
Remove bacon, let cool and chop into small pieces.
Remove about half of bacon drippings leaving about two tablespoons still in pan.
Heat pan to medium high heat. Add drained corn. Corn should crackle and pop in the drippings. Add about half of the jalapeno (or more to taste) and season with salt and pepper. When corn begins to char remove from heat and place in bowl. Garnish with bacon and chopped cilantro. (Note: You want to cook the corn quickly over high heat—less than 5 minutes—If cooked too long, the corn can become chewy and sticky)
Warm the corn tortillas until slightly crispy on the outside. Place pork in tortilla and top with slaw, chopped bacon, chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco and a squeeze of lime. (If you like your tacos extra spicy add some of the remaining grilled jalapeno or some of the skillet corn.)
Enjoy the tacos with good friends and an ice-cold beer (preferably outside).
(photos and recipes by Tim Robison)
A quick note about my song selections. These are the songs that remind me of summers in North Carolina - each one relates to a memory I have of being in the mountains. I try to remind myself to slow down in the summers. Its a magical time and I think these songs help me do that. You can listen to these songs while preparing the meal, or while eating - or both!
We Don't Run : Willie Nelson
You Never Know : Wilco
Pearls On A String : Ryan Adams
Animal Tracks : Mountain Man
The Swimming Song : Loudon Wainwright III
Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight : Amos Lee
Window Blues : Band of Horses
The Chorus In The Underground : Great Lake Swimmers
In The House Of Tom Bombadil : Nickel Creek
Blue Skies : Noah And The Whale
Dirty Rain : Ryan Adams
Island In The Sun : Weezer
Romance To The Grave : Broken Social Scene
Sweet Disposition : The Temper Trap