Recipe: Chef Mel Lafleur’s Beer Braised Pulled Pork Tacos with Chimichurri
You may or may not know this, but I am the “other instructor” in our Calgary blogger Dan‘s Start From Scratch program, a free 10-week cooking program for post-secondary students sponsored by Calgary Co-op, an Alberta Pork retailer. Our goal is to remove some of the “fear” around cooking and get these young people to make more of their own food from scratch! We try to make it a lot of fun, including bringing in guest chefs. Yesterday was our booze-themed class, and Chef Mel Lafleur from The Libertine taught the students how to braise pork using beer.
“Pork is so awesome,” Mel said. “It’s cheap and it’s pretty mildly flavoured, making it very versatile. You can make this and freeze it for many meals.”
First, Mel got the class to make a simple, smoky rub, which was rubbed all over a boneless pork shoulder, ensuring that all the flavour got into the nooks and crannies of the cut.
Next, the pork was seared for some extra flavour before Big Rock Brewery Saaz Pilz was poured on top – you can use any beer you want, but this is what they gave us. Every year, Big Rock sponsors a case of beer for each student! (Though I was secretly sad that it was not Winter Spice Ale, which is my favourite.)
The pork was then popped into a 325˚F oven for a slow braise. While the pork was cooking, the class got to chopping some fresh herbs for a chimichurri. (You can do it in the food processor, but we wanted more hands-on action for the class.)
Since the class was only two hours long, Mel had made some pork beforehand so we could try it! We wrapped them in corn tortillas and topped them with the chimichurri, some pico de gallo (with tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro and cute little sweety drop peppers) and queso fresco, a Mexican cheese that is salty and crumbly. I was able to find some made by Fresk-o in Leduc! Although there were a lot of us, this recipe certainly feeds a crowd, as there were lots of leftovers to take home!
What You’ll Need
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) onion powder
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) chili powder
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) cumin
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) cracked black pepper
- 2 tsp (10 mL) smoked paprika
- 2 tsp (10 mL) dry mustard powder
Beer Braised Pork Shoulder
- 3-4 lb (1.4-1.8 kg) pork shoulder (aka pork butt or Boston butt), fat cap on
- ¼ cup (60 mL) canola oil
- 2 bottles (355 mL each) beer
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed chopped Italian parsley
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) fresh oregano leaves
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh mint
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) minced shallot
- ¾ cup (185 mL) canola or olive oil
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) red wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) lemon juice
- 1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
- ½ tsp (2 mL) cracked black pepper
- ½ tsp (2 mL) chili pepper flakes
- 1-2 packages corn tortillas
- 1 cup (250 mL) pico de gallo
- 1 package queso fresco, grated or crumbled
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix with your hands, ensuring that brown sugar is broken up and evenly distributed.
Beer Braised Pork Shoulder
Pat pork shoulder dry with paper towels, then transfer to a flat surface. With your hands, rub Smoky Rub on pork shoulder, getting in between all the openings and cracks in the pork. Transfer to a bowl or a large bag and let marinate for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 325˚F. Heat oil in a large roasting pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add in pork, fat-side down and sear until both sides of the pork shoulder are dark. Turn the heat to low and pour beer on top of pork. Add water as needed until the liquid sits right below the fat cap. Scatter the whole garlic cloves in the pan, cover with foil and place in the oven until the pork has collapsed and yields easily to the tines of a fork, about 3½ hours.
Pull the meat apart using two forks. If desired, remove the pork from the liquid and reduce the braising liquid by half so that it can be used as a sauce.
While the pork is cooking, mince parsley, garlic, oregano, cilantro, mint and shallots finely and place in a medium bowl. Pour on oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Add salt, pepper and chili pepper flakes and stir. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until well chopped, but not puréed. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge until use. Make this ahead of time to allow flavours to deepen.
When ready to assemble, place tortillas in a clean tea towel and heat in microwave for about 30 seconds. Place some pulled pork in the centre of the warm tortilla, and top with chimichurri, pico de gallo and queso fresco. Fold in half and enjoy.