Sous Chef Series | Todd Pulsinelli

Braised pork gets the Mexican treatment, courtesy of a New Orleans chef

When we caught up with Todd Pulsinelli recently, he was distracted. A lot is vying for his attention these days. There's his job, of course, as chef de cuisine of John Besh's American Sector and Soda Shop, both housed in The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. And then there's Henry Thomas–or Hank, as he's called: Pulsinelli's month-old son."There's a lot going on," he deadpans.

The Ohio transplant came to New Orleans eight years ago for, in his words, "food and a girl." He first worked at Besh's flagship, Restaurant August, hustling back to New Orleans four weeks after Hurricane Katrina to help reopen the restaurant, one of the first to serve post-hurricane. "It was like starting over," he says. "We had a one-page menu and people were serving themselves." He spent the day with Tasting Table, showing us around his kitchen and giving us a glimpse of the life of a chef (click here for the slide show).

He also gave us a recipe: For the Sous Chef Series, Pulsinelli prepared pork tacos, slow-cooking the meat until tender (click here for the recipe). It's a technique he's familiar with–at his wedding reception last December, he presided over a pig roast for his guests. He serves the meat with tortillas and lots of garnishes, perfect for a casual summer meal.

Recipe adapted from Todd Pulsinelli, American Sector, New Orleans

Braised-Pork Tacos
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Make Braised-Pork Tacos from Todd Pulsinelli at American Sector, New Orleans.
Servings
6
servings
Ingredients
  • Pork
  • 3-pound boneless pork butt
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, thinly sliced crosswise
  • Zest of 3 limes
  • Guacamole
  • 3 Hass avocados--halved, pitted and chopped
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon reserved taco spice blend
  • Kosher salt
  • Tomatoes
  • 3 ripe medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Kosher salt
  • Tacos
  • 12 fresh corn tortillas (preferably white corn tortillas)
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • Grapeseed oil
  • ½ lime
  • 6 radishes, trimmed (preferably breakfast radishes)
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Place the pork butt on a cutting board and generously season all over with kosher salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cayenne, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder and onion powder. Measure 1 teaspoon of the mixture and set aside (for the guacamole); rub the rest of the spice blend into all sides of the meat.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat, bring the pork, onions, jalapeños, lime zest and 8 cups water to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook until a fork easily slides into the center of the pork and you can twist the fork with little to no resistance, about 3 hours. Remove from the oven, uncover and set aside until cool enough to shred. Taste and season with salt if needed.
  3. Make the guacamole: In a large bowl, use a fork to lightly mash the avocados with the lime juice. Add the onion, jalapeño, cilantro, reserved taco spice blend and salt and stir until the mixture is semismooth. Taste and adjust the salt if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  4. Season the tomatoes: In a medium bowl, stir together the tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and salt to taste. Set aside.
  5. Stack the tortillas and wrap in a sheet of aluminum foil. Place the tortillas on top of the oven to warm (or reduce the oven temperature to 200° and place the tortillas in the oven just until warmed, 3 to 5 minutes).
  6. Sear the scallions: In a medium bowl, toss the scallions with some salt and a drizzle of oil. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or a cast-iron skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the scallions and brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes total. Turn off the heat and season with a squeeze of lime juice and salt to taste.
  7. Fill a medium bowl with ice and water. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the radishes. Place the shavings in the bowl to stay crisp.
  8. Set the warm tortillas on a platter. To serve, fill a warm tortilla with some shredded pork. Top with guacamole, seasoned tomatoes, seared scallions, shaved radish and queso fresco.
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