There’s a great little Mexican place in Richmond called Tio Pablo. It’s relatively new and since it’s tucked away down in Shockoe Bottom, it’s somewhat unknown. I ate there with a friend for lunch recently and judging by the really delicious flavors, it won’t be unknown for long. One of the tacos I had was the al Pastor, which is basically spicy pork with pineapples. Pairing the spiciness of the pork marinade with the sweetness of the pineapple was a truly wonderful combination, so I decided to try it at home.
I found the recipe on this beautiful site called I Am A FoodBlog. It’s a very simple recipe but one of the ingredients, the achiote paste, was difficult to find. I expect you could get it at a Hispanic focused grocery. We found a (completely inauthentic) substitute recipe made from things you probably already have at home, and it turned out fantastic. It had tons of flavor, it’s bright and colorful, and pretty easy to make, considering. The only thing that we felt was missing was a little bit of Mexican Crema to cool it down a little. If you don’t like very spicy food, I would cut down on the chipotle chiles.
3 1/2 ounce package achiote paste (or the substitute below)
3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, plus 4 tablespoons canning sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1.5 pounds thinly sliced pork shoulder
1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
Combine your achiote paste, chipotles, adobo sauce, and vegetable oil in a food processor or blender. As I’m re-reading the recipe I realize that they also added ¾ cup of water, but I missed that. It turned out great without the water, so I personally would just leave it out. Maybe if you want to dilute the spiciness a little it would help, though. Blend this all up and pour over your sliced pork in a bowl or a baggie to marinate for at least an hour. We let it marinate for about 3 hours.
If you can’t find the achiote paste this is the substitute we used. Like I said above, I’m positive that this is not authentic because it doesn’t use annatto seeds. However, if you can’t find the paste, I think finding annatto seeds will also be a challenge. This substitute uses ingredients you already have around the house. Just blend these ingredients together first, then follow the directions above.
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. white vinegar
3 Tbsps. paprika
1 ½ Tsps. dried oregano
½ Tsp. ground cumin
To cook the pork, heat up a little oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. You want it to be hot, but not so hot that it smokes up your entire kitchen. Believe me, we did that and this spicy marinade is not so pleasant to breath into your lungs so be careful. Grill the meat in small batches until they are cooked and have a nice char on them. If you’ve sliced them thinly enough it shouldn’t take much more than a minute per side. Set them aside while you grill the pineapple in the same pan. They’ll get some of the marinade flavor on them from the pan. Just brown them up; it should only take a few minutes. Spoon pork and pineapple into your warm tortillas and top with the chopped red onions and cilantro. I also added about a tablespoon of the pineapple juice into the onion and cilantro to make more of a fresh salsa. I think some sour cream or Mexican crema would be a great added flavor as well. Try these, and then hit up Tio Pablo and try some of their other wonderful tacos as well!