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Bourbon Pulled Pork Tacos

by Allie on May 14, 2012

Lately I’ve started looking for excuses to spend more time in the kitchen. Parties are the perfect opportunity to go a little overboard and make something outside of the norm, so naturally, I was excited by the prospect of throwing a Cinco de Mayo party. After seeing something about the Kentucky Derby online, I then got excited at the idea of throwing a derby party as well. And then I learned that the two events fell on the same day this year, and I didn’t know what to do. How could I choose between the two??

Within half an hour of realizing my dilemma, a photo of a mint julep margarita popped up on my Facebook feed.  Thank you, Cooking Channel! I hadn’t thought of doing a mashup of the holidays, but once I saw that cocktail, I was determined to get creative in the kitchen and see how I could blend Mexican and Southern flavors. And so, Cinco de Derby was born.

I got to menu planning. The mint julep margarita was going to be on the menu, that was certain. After all, it was the inspiration behind everything. Signature cocktail down, I still had to plan an entrée, a side dish, and a dessert. For the main course, I decided to put a spin on the traditional pulled pork taco. I’d start with a Mexican pork rub, then tweak the sauce by adding in some Southern flavors– brown sugar and bourbon. The sauce initially had two very distinct flavors. First all you’d taste is sweet, but then you’d get hit by spicy. After reducing the sauce the flavors melded, so I’m curious to try the tacos again without reducing the sauce so that it still packs the double-punch.

Dessert was a no-brainer. Flan is the standard Latin American dessert in my book, and nothing says Southern like pecan pie.  I’d adjust my flan recipe to use brown sugar for the caramel, and top it with homemade candied pecans.

I was still stuck on a side dish and unsure of whether to add brown sugar and chili powder to sweet potato wedges, or to somehow combine the two side dishes I think of for each cuisine: black beans and sweet potatoes. Since my family isn’t big on spicy food, so I decided to play it safe and try this recipe for lime cilantro sweet potatoes with black beans. Boy am I glad that I did! The sweet potatoes and black beans work great as a vegetarian taco-filler, a side dish, or even a main dish. I see this recipe becoming a fairly regular lunch.

The final menu:


Mint Julep Margaritas

Bourbon Pulled Pork Tacos

Lime Cilantro Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans

Pecan Pie Flan


The pork was certainly an experience. My favorite grocery store didn’t carry boneless pork shoulder, so the butcher cut the bone out for me. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that my piece of pig had its hide still attached. Frantic, I started wishing I’d taken that two-day pig butchery class at the Institute of Culinary Education after all. I considered tweeting, “Does anyone know how to butcher a pig?!?!” but thought people might get the wrong idea. THIS IS THE TIME THAT SOUTHERN FRIENDS COME IN HANDY. If anyone knows how to properly slow cook a pig, it is a Southerner! A phone call later to one of my Southern boys, and I was set straight–no need for some pig butchery lesson over the phone, just some sage advice to place the pork skin side up for at least three  hours so that the fat dripped down onto the meat, and separating the meat from the hide would be a piece of cake once all was said and done.

With the exception of the food not being ready until Sunday, I’d say the Cinco de Derby menu was a success. If you’re going to undertake massive amounts of food prep for a party, it’s probably best to start a day early. And if you’re like me and don’t shop until noon the day of despite knowing how long it would take to make the pork in a slow cooker? Then make sure you have emergency ground beef tacos on hand for your hungry guests!

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