Like most folks, I try to leave my fridge as bare as possible when I go away for a few days, in order to avoid bizarre science experiments upon my return. Granted, I was only going away for 4 days, but better safe than sorry, right? Sadly, when I got back my fridge greeted me with condiments, a lonely little head of cabbage, and some corn tortillas. Not the most inspiring fodder by any means. Fortunately, I had a lovely pork loin in the freezer and a couple ripe mangos in Big Bowl, so I thought I'd throw together some pork tacos with a simple mango salsa. But I'm bored with the traditional mango salsas these days (don't dislike 'em, they're just everywhere right now), so I hemmed and hawed until I could come up with something a little less common. That's when I remembered my giant jar of chipotle peppers in adobo, and my plan for something different and bolder in flavor & texture started to fall into place.
This does require a bit of marinating time, so if you're thinking of making this over the holiday be sure to start your prep about a day in advance. Despite that, this is relatively easy to make, and, more importantly, packed with a multitude of textures and flavors. The marinade is made mostly of chipotle peppers, giving the pork a special smoky spiciness without being completely overwhelming. To cool things down and steer away from the standard mango salsa (and to indulge my recent craving for some sort of curtido... pupusas with curtido are all I can think of lately, but I digress), I thought it'd be fun to make a simple slaw of my lonely little cabbage and those sweet, juicy mangos. The crispness of the cabbage adds a fun texture and the slaw's tangy flavors complement the pork beautifully. Still need more heat? No worries! The marinade can also double as a sauce which you can drizzle over your tacos. Just be careful - it's super tasty but not for the faint of heart!
Chipotle Pork Tacos with Mango Cabbage Slaw (makes about 8 servings; total cost per serving: ~$1.95)
1 lb lean pork loin, cut into 1" strips
8 chipotle peppers
1/2 c cider vinegar
2 T honey
1 c red bell pepper strips
2 T olive oil
8-10 corn tortillas
Lime wedges (optional)
Mango Cabbage Slaw
1/2 medium head of cabbage, shredded
1 large mango, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 T fresh key lime juice (lemon or regular lime juice is also fine)
1/4 c cider vinegar
1 t sugar
Pinch of salt
Prepare the marinade by combining the chipotle peppers, cider vinegar and honey in a food processor and puree until smooth. Reserve about 1/3 to use later as a sauce for the tacos. In a large bowl combine the pork and the remaining marinade and mix together until the pork is completely coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
On cooking day, prepare the slaw by combining all ingredients in a large bowl and mixing together well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Add the pork and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the pork is browned. Remove the pork, add the red bell pepper strips to the pan, and lightly sauté until peppers just become tender. Return pork to pan and stir to combine with peppers. In a separate skillet, warm the tortillas over medium low heat. When heated through, cover or place in a tortilla warmer.
Assemble your tacos by spooning a generous amount of the pork & pepper mixture onto the tortillas. Drizzle with extra chipotle sauce if you like, top with plenty of mango cabbage slaw, and enjoy!