Friday, October 17, 2008

Pork Tacos: Better Without the “Taco” Part

So, here’s a question: when did hard taco shells become acceptable vesicles for food? I know millions of perfectly happy and sane Americans use them daily with little-to-no trouble, but I HATE the damn things. Besides their distinct particle board flavor, I’ve never met a taco shell that doesn’t crumble into shirt-staining oblivion after the very first bite. They’re the culinary equivalent of being punched in the neck: messy, tasteless, and when inflicted on loved ones, kind of mean.

Despite this, The Boyfriend is a taco fan. It’s a natural extension of his deep and abiding love and for nachos. (The guy would live in a Tex-Mex restaurant if given the chance.) I don’t usually bother with them because (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this) I loathe their carrying cases. But pork was on sale, and I found a decent-looking recipe in Cooking Light. So … tacos were made.

And beyond the hideous store bought shells (which – surprise! - had all the crunch and taste of Styrofoam packing material), they were good. The pork itself was VERY good, in addition to being ridiculously easy to make. Scallions were a nice finishing touch, tomatoes brought some much-needed moisture, and the onions … henceforth, I will never cook them any other way. With apologies to taco shell fans, if the meat and veggies had been served differently – on rice, with a salad, in a flour tortilla wrap – it would have been the perfect weeknight meal.

If you’re interested (and you should be!), I have three quick notes:

1) Instead of pork tenderloin, I used a 1-lb. center cut pork loin roast (cut in half for cooking purposes – picture on the right). It was AT LEAST $2 cheaper than the leaner cut. Granted, the calories and fat were slightly greater, but not enough to pay double.

2) The recipe specified ancho chile powder, but I only had the regular stuff on hand. It worked, so use whatever floats your boat (or your taco).

3) Seriously, skip the taco shells for something else. I won’t hold it against you if you don’t, but … okay, I’ll hold it against you.

And that does it for this week, my friends. If I’m not here on Monday, it’s because my heart has been torn from my chest by a 47-inning ALCS baseball game. (Boston … HOW DO THEY DO IT?) Have a great weekend!

Pork Tacos
Makes 8 tacos
Adapted from Cooking Light.

1 tablespoon chile powder (regular, ancho, or otherwise)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed OR 1 pound center cut pork loin, trimmed and cut into two tenderloin-sized pieces
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 cups thinly sliced onion
8 hard taco shells
1/2 cup chopped tomato
8 teaspoons chopped green onions

1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a broiler pan with cooking spray.

2) In a small bowl, mix chile powder, brown sugar and salt. Using your hands, rub mixture evenly all over your pork.

3) Arrange pork on broiler pan. Roast until your meat thermometer reads 160°. It should be around 20 minutes. Remove pan and turn off oven. Place pork on a cutting board. Let cool a few minutes. Slice.

4) As pork is cooking, "heat oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat." Add onion. Cover. Cook until onion is golden brown, around 10 minutes, lifting cover to stir a couple of times. When 10 minutes are up, remove cover and saute another minute, stirring all the while.

5) Spread pork and toppings evenly among taco shells. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
211 calories, 9.3 g fat, $0.67

1 tablespoon chile powder (regular, ancho, or otherwise): 24 calories, 1.3 g fat, $0.04
1 teaspoon brown sugar: 11 calories, 0 g fat, $0.01
1/2 teaspoon salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1 pound center cut pork loin, trimmed: 945 calories, 43.5 g fat, $1.99
Cooking spray: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 teaspoon vegetable oil: 44 calories, 5 g fat, $0.01
3 cups thinly sliced onion: 145 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.60
8 hard taco shells: 498 calories, 24 g fat, $1.32
1/2 cup chopped tomato: 16 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.50
8 teaspoons chopped green onions: 5 calories, 0 g fat, $0.33
TOTAL: 1688 calories, 74.3 g fat, $5.33
PER SERVING (TOTAL/8): 211 calories, 9.3 g fat, $0.67


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