Grilled Pork Tacos with Charred Eggplant and Tomatoes

These grilled pork tacos with charred eggplant and tomatoes are pretty epic, definitely worth a little extra work on a weekend! Enjoy with a cold local brew and good friends! 

A couple weeks ago was the week of the taco. It was awesome.

It all started when we spent the day sailing with friends on the lake. While we were out on the boat, my friend Chelsea told us her grand idea of opening a taco stand at our local farmers market. Environmental lawyer by week, taco connoisseur by weekend? I doubt she'll ever go through with it, but we still had fun dreaming up taco combinations! After a day in the sun, drinking and talking about Mexican food, what did we end up getting for dinner? Tacos and fresh margs. No big surprise.

Later that week, I took the day off to go wedding dress shopping with my family for my sister-in-laws wedding. When appointments ran late and our stomachs were rumbling, you know what they asked for? More tacos! BBQ shrimp and veggie tacos with extra guac for the win!

You would think at this point I would be sick of tacos. But apparently that's not physically possible, because what did I cook for dinner the next night? These pork tacos.

This recipe was adapted from one in Smoke, a James Beard award winning cookbook that teaches the art of cooking with fire. Like, real fire. As in, lets build a firepit in our backyard. It's legit. It's also one of the prettiest cookbooks I own. Most of the recipes aren't exactly weeknight friendly (grilled creole shrimp cocktail with pickled relish vinaigrette made from a combination of four different homemade relishes and a homemade horseradish Tejano red sauce anyone?). But they're beautiful, inspirational and most can be easily be simplified. It's a great gift for any grill lovers in your family - I know the hubs was set on building a pit for oyster roasts in our backyard after thumbing through it!

The original recipe called for waaaay more oil, like three cups (!!!). The pork was essentially confit. I love a good confit, but I'm also more than happy to let a real chef do it for me. I also used a leaner cut of pork. If you prefer shredded pork over cubed, I would use a fattier cut, like a pork shoulder. Also, I know the eggplant and tomato may seem like an odd choice for a tacos, but trust me on it. If you're really not into it or you want to save time, serve it with preshredded cabbage instead.

Because I'm a wuss, I cooked this on the grill instead of a backyard firepit. But, I did it in a cast iron skillet on the grill, so maybe that earns me a couple bad ass points?? If you're a bigger weenie than me, you could also cook this indoors with a Dutch oven or make life even easier with a crockpot! Simply sear the pork, add the citrus-beer mixture and let it simmer until tender! It might be missing some of that smoky flavor, but I bet the citrus-beer flavor would be more pronounced.

Grilled Pork Tacos with Charred Tomatoes and Eggplant

Serves 6 (2 tacos each)

Adapted from Smoke.

Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 lbs pork loin roast
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 12 ounce bottle of IPA beer
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 4 sprigs of oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 6 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Feta or cotija cheese, crumbled, for serving
  • Salsa verde, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together minced garlic, curry, smoked paprika, chili, brown sugar, cumin, cayenne and salt. Rub the pork all over with the spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.
  2. While pork is marinading, mix lemon juice, orange juice, beer, garlic, shallots, oregano and bay leaves in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. When ready to cook pork, heat the grill to medium-high heat. Place a large cast iron skillet on the grill to heat. When hot, add olive oil. Sear pork in the olive oil, cooking 2-3 minutes per side, until browned all over. Add the citrus-beer mixture, reduce the grill heat to medium-low, and cover grill lid. Cook covered, about 30-45 minutes until pork is tender, cooked through and sauce is reduced. Carefully with an oven mitt, remove and set aside to cool slightly, pork still in the skillet.
  4. While pork is resting, turn the heat up to medium-high. Spray the grates with olive oil. Season the tomatoes and eggplant with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on the grill, tomatoes skin side down, and cook with grill lid covered, about 5-7 minutes until charred on one side. Remove tomatoes from grill to a plate and set aside. Flip eggplant and cook 5 minutes on the other side until charred and tender.
  5. As space becomes available on the grill, lay the tortillas out flat to lightly char. Remove to a clean plate.
  6. When ready to serve, remove pork to a cutting board. Slice into 3/4-inch cubes. Add back to the sauce and toss to combine. Season with salt if needed.
  7. Divide eggplant and tomatoes between the tortillas. Top with pork then garnish with cheese and salsa verde.
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