Of all the tortilla-related formats, I think the tostada is the most underrated. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Pizza is almost universally loved and a tostada is essentially a crisp thin-crust pizza. And it’s naturally gluten-free. The tostada should be a slam dunk for the North American market. But tacos reign supreme in my neck of the woods. And I don’t have a problem with that. I love a good taco as much as the next girl. But I do believe the tostada genre deserves more recognition. And I intend to fight that very good fight by introducing you to these Mojito Pork Tostadas with Sweet Plantain Spears.
For those of us who were introduced to the magic of tacos via a particular yellow box, a hard shell taco will always be more familiar. When I was a kid, I wasn’t aware that I was enjoying a derivative of a variety of tacos know as tacos dorados. Tacos dorados roughly translates to “golden” tacos. And why are they golden? They’re fried, of course. Members of this taco family are filled, folded, and then fried. Keeping the filling where you want it while frying the tacos requires a deft hand. The last time I made tacos dorados, I baked them in the oven, and prayers and toothpicks kept everything in place while the tortillas crisped up.
What I love about tostadas is you just fry the tortilla. You don’t have to alter its natural shape either. In fact, you want it to stay flat. And once your tortillas are golden and crispy, the world is your oyster. You can load a tostada up with anything you’d find in a taco, and overfilling is not a concern. While eating a tostada with a knife and fork is not exactly traditional, it is a good option, especially if you’re a topping fiend like me.
But enough about the virtues of tostadas in general, let’s talk about these Mojito Pork Tostadas. We’re going to kick things off with the pork. Initially, I thought of using a whole pork shoulder for this recipe. Smoking it low and slow, and shredding the meat with a fork. But I live in a two-person household and I didn’t particularly fancy eating pulled pork for the next month or so. Plus, who has the freezer space? So instead of getting a whole shoulder, I settled for blade steaks, which are cut from the shoulder. With the whole shoulder out, it seemed silly to do a low and slow smoke. So, I skewered the meat instead.
Now, let’s talk about the marinade. The marinade is comprised of everything you’d find in a stiff mojito as well as a splash of olive oil. And what would a mojito be without lime and rum? There is nothing wrong with marinating meat in alcohol. But the choice to do it does require that you follow a few rules. Alcohol, like acid, cooks the outside of the meat, which effectively seals the meat off from absorbing more flavor. Luckily, this “cooking” doesn’t happen immediately. You can leave your pork in the marinade for four flavor-soaked hours. But once the four hours are up, your meat really isn’t absorbing all that much.
With the pork in the marinade, it’s time to turn our attention to pickles. Pickled red onions to be exact. The recipe below calls for toasted cumin seeds, which is another step. The cumin seeds add a little dimension and a slight smokiness to the onions, but if you leave them off, you’ll still have delicious onions. The same goes for the dried chilies. The cumin and chilies are flavor-boosters, they aren’t essential to the pickling process. And they can be swapped out for any whole spices your heart desires, so get creative. Just make sure you leave the vinegar, salt, and sugar measurements where they are.
Now, let’s talk about frying those tortillas. Another thing to love about a tostada – they only require a shallow fry. All you need is a good cast-iron skillet and about an inch of neutral oil and you’re off to the races. You can use a candy thermometer to keep an eye on your oil’s temperature, but I didn’t bother. The tortillas fry up so quickly and they’re easy to fish out, so you’ll be able to catch the tortilla if it starts to get away from you.
Once the tortillas are fried, pour off the oil and return the skillet to the heat. It’s time to make the sweet plantain spears. And this could not be simpler. All you have to do is sear the plantains and then add butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. The butter and brown sugar will form a sort of sauce, that will coat the plantains in something akin to a thin caramel. The only struggle is not to eat all the plantains before the tostadas are ready.
With the pork taken care of, the onions pickled, and plantains candied, all we have left to do is assemble the toppings. I am going to be scant with the details here, mostly because the toppings that you choose are totally up to you. But I will tell you what I went with. I decked my tacos out with avocado, jalapeño, yogurt, and fresh mint. You can use all of these toppings or none of them. This is the choose-your-own-adventure portion of this recipe.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Mojito Pork Tostadas with Sweet Plantain Spears. The perfect summer meal that makes good use of the grill and vibrant Caribbean flavors.
Mojito Pork Tostadas with Sweet Plantain Spears
- 12 skewers
- Large Cast Iron Skillet
- BBQ grill or cast-iron griddle
- 2 pork blade steaks cut into strips
- 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh mint tightly packed
- 2 tbsp demerara sugar
- 4 oz dark rum
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Pickled Red Onions
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ large red onion cut into half moons
- 1¼ cup white vinegar
- 2 dried chilis
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1½ cups neutral oil I used canola oil
- 1 ripe plantain cut into spears
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 avocado cut into wedges
- 1-2 jalapeños thinly sliced
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- fresh mint leaves and blossoms
For the Pork
- Place the garlic, mint, and sugar in a large bowl. Using a muddler, muddle the ingredients together until the mint leaves are bruised.
- Add the rum, olive oil, and salt. Stir to combine and add the pork. Toss to coat. Cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave the pork to marinate for 4 hours, but no longer. **
For the Onions
- While the pork is marinating, make the pickled onions. Pour the cumin seeds into a dry skillet and place over medium-low heat. Briefly toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently. Once the seeds are fragrant, take the pan off of the heat.
- Place the onions, dried chilis, and toasted cumin seeds in a medium-sized bowl. Set it aside. In another bowl, whisk to combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Pour the mixture over the onions and give everything a little swish. Cover and let pickle at room temperature for 4 hours.
For the Tostadas
- Pour the oil into a large cast-iron skillet and place over high heat. Once bubbles begin to break the oil's surface or the oil registers 350°F on a candy thermometer, add 2 corn tortillas to the oil. Fry until golden, flipping once. This should take 2-3 minutes. Transfer the golden tortillas to a plate lined with a paper towel. Transfer to a low 150°F oven to keep warm.
For the Plantain
- Pour the oil out of the pan and give it a quick wipe. Add the plantain, and sear until lightly golden on all sides. Reduce the heat to low and add the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Saute until a sauce forms and coats the plantain.
- Transfer the finished plantain to a plate and transfer to the oven to keep warm.
- Take the pork out of the marinade and skewer on either stainless steel skewers or bamboo skewers that have been soaked overnight. Heat a BBQ grill or cast-iron griddle over high heat. Once smoking, add the pork skewers and char on all sides. Reduce the heat and cook about 3-4 minutes a side, to ensure the pork is cooked all the way through.
- Place 3-4 pieces of pork on top of each tostada. Add a spear of sweet plantain and an avocado wedge. Top with a dollop of yogurt, 2-3 jalapeño rings, and pickled red onions. Serve immediately with lime wedges and your favorite hot sauce.