Tinga and Tostada (Spicy Shredded Pork on Pan Fried Tortillas)

Roo brought up the other day how he felt a lot of the “grown up stuff,” has happened with his family this past year.  I asked him what he meant, and he listed them off:

– Roo’s father died last year (and my first introduction to the family was by that event).

– Roo’s brother proposed to his now fiancé that week.

– Roo’s sister got married a few months after that.

– Roo and I moved in together last August, only after being “exclusive” for nine months.

– And Roo’s sister is now due with her first child in December.

A lot of “grown up stuff” indeed.

With August right around the corner, I can’t help but think that almost a year ago, I packed up my room in Porter (mostly in trash bags, classy), hoping Roo and I would make it as cohabitants.

I honestly couldn’t be happier with the decision we made. For me, it was probably three months ahead of schedule, but when are life plans we make, ever really kept?

When I was eighteen years old, I thought at 21 I’d be finishing undergrad, accepted into Tufts Veterinary School, and then by 25, with a DVM diploma in my hand, and an engagement ring on another, be in the process of shopping for a house in suburbia with my fiancé, only to have my first child at 28, and my second at age 30.

Who. Thinks. These. Things!?!

I did, at age eighteen.

I’ll admit, the timing of Roo’s sister announcing that she was prego, and my thirtieth birthday right around the corner, was a little too poignant for me. Poignant as in, when Roo told me, I walked straight into the bathroom and texted my two closest friends, S and E, while I sat on the bathroom floor wondering what was I doing with my life. Now, as I scroll through those texts, I can see I was a little…hysterical.

Roo came in after a while, (wondering where I had disappeared to) and even though I wanted to hide how I was feeling, I just couldn’t.  I felt like I failed the younger version of myself; full of goals and crazy list making ways. Even though I really didn’t like who I was at eighteen – extremely emotional, mean, and a bit slutty.

The next day I didn’t feel like cooking after coming home from work; still rattled and counting down to my impending doom of turning 30 years old. But we needed to eat, and if we were going to eat, it had to be a warm, spicy meal, with cheese. It had to have cheese.

Such (random) qualifications are often hard to meet, but I was able to find something from America’s Test Kitchen’s website.

Despite Chris Kimball’s freakishly small hands I find the institute’s recipes are always reliable, if not over explained.

The opportunity to eat spicy pulled pork on fried tortillas, I just could not pass (is that sentence a little Yoda-ish?).

The fact that I could throw feta on top of it, made waiting for the pork to finish simmering in the pot almost unbearable.

Recipe Adapted, only a little, from America’s Test Kitchen

Serves Four Generously


For the Tinga

6 cups of water

2 pounds boneless pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and cut into one inch pieces

2 medium onions: one quartered, one diced

6 garlic cloves, 3 peeled and smashed, 3 minced

4 sprigs dried thyme

Teaspoon of salt

Reserved cup of cooking liquid

Two to three tablespoons of olive oil (a couple of turns around your pan with the oil)

One large can (24 – 28 ounce) of diced tomatoes (I love the texture of diced tomatoes, so I feel like I’m something substantial and not baby food)

1 – 2 tablespoon(s) ground chipotle powder (we LOVE heat, so we use two, but try one tablespoon, stir to combine all ingredients, and taste if you’d like a little less tomato flavor and more smoky yummy heat)

2 – 3 bay leaves


A handful of cilantro, chopped

For the Tostadas

Twelve (six inch) corn tortillas

Four to Five tablespoons of olive oil


A large pot that can hold over 8 cups of water (with lid, or something to partially cover it with)

A very, very large saute pan

A medium sized skillet (one that can hold a couple of turns of olive oil and one six inch corn tortilla)

A large plate, or you can use a clean cutting board

Tongs or a spatula

A potato masher, or, I use two forks

A fork or knife

A paper towel lined plate

Throw the pork, onion, smashed garlic cloves, thyme, teaspoon of salt, and 6 cups of water in a pot over medium-high heat.  When it comes to a boil, skim any foam that rises to the surface, and reduce the heat to medium-low, so that it’s at a simmer.  Partially cover and cook until the pork is tender (like mash with a fork and it falls apart tender) for 75 to 90 minutes.  I typically cook it for 90 minutes as it’s easier on the brain to calculate 90 minutes from my start time versus 75.

When the pork is tender, drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.  Toss out the onion, garlic and thyme.  If you can’t find it all, that’s fine, I’ve served Roo a thyme stem of two and he didn’t care.

Place the pork on a large plate, and mash it with a potato masher (or pull apart with two forks) until it’s shredded into about half inch pieces.

Place your very, very large saute pan with a couple turns of olive oil over the pan, onto a burner over medium-high heat.  When the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook until lightly browned.  Add the shredded pork, stirring often so that all bits of the pork are well browned and crisp.  It takes me about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it, as your pan and burner may react differently.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

Add the diced tomatoes, stir to combine everything.  Add the chipotle powder (mmm two teaspoons for us!), reserved cooking liquid and bay leaves.  Stir to combine all the ingredients, and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated (this takes about ten to fifteen minutes for me, but our stove is extremely catty, I mean…).

Remove and discard the bay leaves with almost all the liquid has evaporated.  Taste.  Add salt if it needs it.

Before you attack the whole pan (because I do, smashing bits of feta in between my fingers with the pork and stuffing it immediately in my mouth), add a couple of turns of olive oil to a skillet and set over medium-high heat.  While you’re waiting for the oil to heat up, poke the tortilla 3 to 4 times with a fork or knife (to prevent puffing when cooking).  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the tortilla to the pan.  Cook until lightly browned (less than a minute).  Flip, and then cook until the other side is lightly browned.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Repeat with the rest of your tortillas.

To served, spoon some tinga on the tortilla, with crumbled feta and cilantro. Snarf.

2 thoughts on “Tinga and Tostada (Spicy Shredded Pork on Pan Fried Tortillas)

    • I did at 18. I was totally convinced that that was how my life was supposed to pan out. And then you met me at 25, but convinced I did not want children. Probably because I knew the relationship I was in was definitely not meant to be. And look at where we are now! Five years later and I’m back to my child-wanting ways…still crazy.

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