Pork cheek tacos with blood orange and chipotle

A slow-cooked meat dish always wants something to offset the richness (beef ragu with gremolata for another example), which is why I thought these pork cheeks would work well in tacos. They need leisurely cooking to melt the fat and render the meat fork-tender. I was thinking along the lines of saucy carnitas.

The blood oranges have hit the shops and so I used some juice to braise the cheeks, combined with Mexican spices and smoky chipotle flakes (you could also add some chipotles en adobo). After 3 hours of bubbling, the meat was coming apart in shreds and the sauce intensely flavoured; it’s probably one of the most delicious slow cooked dishes I’ve ever made. We piled it onto pan-scorched tacos and topped with lime-heavy guacamole, green chilli and Thomasina Miers’ pink onions pickled in citrus juice and herbs.

The leftovers made the largest and most kick ass burrito I’ve ever eaten in my life. I would’ve been embarrassed had anyone actually seen me eating it; meat all over my hands and face. I burnt my cheek with chilli. The sauce left its indelible mark in no less than 3 places on my t-shirt. Totally worth it though, especially considering I bought 10 cheeks for £2.50. Result.

Pork cheeks braised with blood orange and chipotle

10 pork cheeks
Juice of 1 large blood orange
4 cloves
6 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon crushed chipotle chillies (or to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2 carrots, very finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1 litre vegetable stock (or enough to comfortably cover the cheeks; the sauce will be reduced at the end)
1 teaspoon sugar

Flour and oil for searing the cheeks

Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan. Dust some flour onto a plate and use it to coat the pork cheeks by turning them over on the plate. Once the oil is hot, sear the cheeks a few at a time until brown on all sides then set aside on a plate.

Add the onions and carrots to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so until softened. Add the spices (in a little bit of muslin if you want to be fancy and make it easy to fish them out later on), orange juice, bay leaves, oregano, tomato purée, sugar and stock, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Add the pig cheeks back to the pan, put a lid on and cook on the lowest heat possible for 3 hours.

After this time, check the sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove the meat from the sauce; it should be extremely tender and falling apart at the touch. Shred it and set aside. Fish the whole spices from the sauce then reduce it over a high heat by about two thirds. Basically you want enough to coat the meat in a rich sauce. Add the meat back to the sauce and warm through.

Serve on tacos with guacamole and onions lightly pickled in orange and lime juice with herbs. To cut tacos, use a large glass, teacup or knife to make circles from a large fajita wrap and toast lightly in a dry pan.

Category: Main Dishes, Meat, Mexican Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , 39 comments »

39 Responses to “Pork cheek tacos with blood orange and chipotle”

  1. Becci

    Wow – these look absolutely incredible. They remind me of the carnitas burritos I made a few months ago, but yours might actually look even better than that (if you’re interested: http://wp.me/pLpVQ-oO). I just love braised pork burritos. And I love the idea of using blood oranges! WANT!

  2. Rob

    These look great, why are there not more fresh tacos in the UK.

    one of the best things about going to LA is taco stands!

  3. Tori @ eat-tori

    Oh my. These look dangerously, dangerously good. Love the idea of the blood orange…Last time I had carnitas we also had some radish slices over the top- gave it an interesting and crunchy kick.

  4. chloe

    Nice….really that looks incredible!!

    I can almost smell those flavours and spices, definately one for my must try list!

  5. Caroline

    Last time I bought pig cheeks it cost me £15 for 8 (William Rose) – please let me in on the secret of where you found yours Helen. Nevins?

  6. Mr Creosote

    Helen,

    Where did you get pig cheeks for that price? I got six from William Rose in East Dulwich and had to pay £15 for the priviledge due to “labour costs”…..were these from your favourite Irish butchers on Rye Lane?

    Pork cheek ragu is also delicious btw.

    Many thanks.

  7. Helen

    Becci – Ace. Although that link doesn’t work for me…

    Rob – have you been here? http://helengraves.co.uk/2010/05/buen-provecho-seriously-good-mexican-street-food/

    Tori – mm love the idea of radish on there.

    Chloe – You’ll just have to make them…

    Caroline – Morrisons! £2.50 for ten. Don’t bother with William Rose – they are a rip off, their meat isn’t that good and they are rude. Try the GG Sparkes van on North Cross Rd instead.

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  9. Rob

    Elephant and castle is miles away, i am lucky to have the energy to move to the sofa on a sunday.

    I might move the office to waterloo though

  10. Lizzie

    Mmmmm pork cheeks. It looks delicious; I’m a huge fan of onion salady pickly things. Where’d you get your tacos from?

  11. bellini

    This would go so well with the blood orange sangria I made last week!!

  12. Helen

    Rob – yeah, fair point!

    Lizzie – You just get some fajita/wrap thingies and cut out circles from them. Toast them really briefly in a dry pan. Ta da!

    bellini – I bet they would. My, have I had some messy times with sangria.

  13. Becca Rothwell

    Wow. These look and sound incredible! I’ve never cooked with pork cheeks but at £2.50 for 10 perhaps it’s time to start. There’s Morrison’s near me so maybe they’ll have some too?

    Not sure I’d be able to cook them slowly on the hob though, even my smallest ring seems permanently set to vicious boil. I’m guessing the same amount of time in a mid to low oven would be about right though instead?

  14. LexEat!

    Yummo! I’m not a fan of owning loads of appliances, but I do love my slow cooker – might give it a whirl with this. Thanks!

  15. Robert

    Interesting! I love pork cheeks but I hope it doesn’t go the way of lamb shanks, which has risen in price due to demand. I miss the carnitas I gobbled down greedily in San Francisco :-)

  16. WalshyMK

    Helen –
    Amazing. I’m making them tomorrow. How many people does this make for? (I am feeding 3 greedy people)

    Everyone else –
    Waitrose sells pigs cheeks quite cheaply too (though not quite as cheap as that!)

  17. Helen

    becca – Yeah, should be fine.

    Robert – So do I. Keep em cheap and cheerful. Fingers crossed.

    WalshyMK – Oh it will feed 3 no problem. There are two of us and we had enough pork for two rounds of tacos (about 10 in each round!) and two massive burritos.

  18. WalshyMK

    Fab, thanks!

  19. Betty

    Emailed this recipe to my flatmate yesterday and somehow word got out and another friend has just invited himself over for supper tomorrow! Can I ask though, were the cheeks you bought already trimmed, or was it literally just the cheek cut from a pig’s head (which is what I’ve got)?

  20. Jonathan

    Mmmm. Pigs cheeks. You may well have reignited my obsession with them.

  21. Ryan

    Just made these – probably the best slow cooked pork i’ve ever made. Not that i have great experience of Mexican food but its at least as good as anything i’ve had in Wahaca. Nom (and thanks!)

  22. oliver

    Fuckries, this looks amazing!

    Waitrose also cheap(ish) for cheeks, got 7 for under 2 quid.

  23. The Grubworm

    Wow – this post had me salivating while reading, and nodding along in rueful recognition at the burnt cheek, stained t-shirt issue. That’s me. Every lunchtime.

    The combo of orange and pork is inspired, especially when married with limey guacamole. I bet that citrus just cut through the fat beautifully letting those unctuous pork fats coat you tongue a-new with each bit. Mmmmm.

  24. KSalty

    auugh – they look amazing, and arguably worth the cheek burning?
    Also – thanks to Ollie, above, for ‘Fuckries.’ Brilliant.

  25. Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen

    Looks really delicious!

  26. Essex Eating

    These look frigging awesome Helen. In fact, pretty much everything you cook looks awesome. Nice work.

  27. Helen

    Betty – sorry to not answer your question sooner, yeah they were trimmed. Did yours still have skin on then?

    Jonathan – aah I remember with fondness your phase. Time to revisit.

    Ryan – Ace! So glad to hear they turned out well.

    Oliver – Fuckries! Amaze-balls.

    The Grubworm – for a minute there I thought you meant you ate pork cheek tacos for lunch every day you lucky, lucky bugger. Now I realise you mean you get food down your top every lunchtime. In which case, we have something in common.

    KSalty – I know, ‘Fuckries’. And yeah, totally worth the cheek burning. It was like Woman Vs. Food.

    Jenn -Thanks!

    Dan – Cheers! And CHEERS!

  28. mrs lister

    hello helen – a friend posted a link to your blog on my FB wall yesterday with an ‘I assume you already read this blog?’

    holy mother of slow cooked porky goodness. this recipe NEEDS to be made.

    i shall do so this weekend and report back (possibly with pictures)

    =)

  29. youngandfoodish

    I made minor changes to your recipe for pork cheek and blood orange tacos, not because I dreamed I could do better but rather to make use of ingredients on hand, most notable some leftover Gruner Veltliner.

    You’re right, it was one of the best slow-cooked dishes we’ve ever had in this flat or, for that matter, London.

    Very grateful for the inspiration.

  30. Helen

    mrs lister – fab! hope you enjoy it.

    Daniel – Well thank you. I’m so glad you liked the dish. Nice touch with the vino!

  31. Tommi Miers

    Man, you are a goddess in the kitchen. I want to cook that right now! How delicious Helen. Inspired MExican-ness. You have inspired me.

    Getting back from MExico in the morning. Have has such an amazing time cooking with women in shacks in the middle of nowhere. It has been really amazing.

    Great post!

  32. youngandfoodish

    Only now did I observe you having left out the instruction about returning the pork cheeks to the pan.

  33. Helen

    Tommi – Thank you! Really chuffed to hear you think the dish sounds yummy. From the goddess of Mexican cooking too!

    Daniel – I only just noticed too. Thanks, have added it in.

  34. Swedish Meatball

    I cooked these up a while ago and just wrote a blog post about it – just wanted to say I absolutely loved them and they’re getting quite the reputation in my group of friends… Thanks for a great recipe!

  35. oliver

    I blogged a variant!

    http://saladdaysoffalnights.blogspot.com/2011/09/pork-tacos-with-orange-and-chilli.html

  36. Julia

    Wow Helen – these are amazing! Especially with the lovely citrusey onions.

  37. Pilsbury

    Making this for six hungry adults for nye tomorrow and I can’t remember how muh it makes – is doubling up the ingredients above enough helen?

  38. Helen

    Oh crikey sorry! I only just saw your comment. Did you make it? I would have thought it was enough?

  39. Goose

    I have cheeks defrosting as we speak. The orange element I have used before, its looking like its being used again. Also have Wahaca Arbol in the cupboard.
    Jerk was well received in Germany.Speaking of Jamacian/London (erm sort of) go see Dreadzone if you can, caught them a few weeks back in Exeter, fantastic.
    Still loving your blog. Keep up the good work.


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