Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Summer harvest means an array of sweet and spicy peppers just perfect for flavoring braised pork butt. All a good hunk of meat needs is a few aromatics, quality stock, and time to turn into tender braised shreds just askin’ to be layered into a tortilla with a squeeze of lime. (Add some raw veggies for crunch and top with fresh herbs for best results.)

Let’s take a look at what makes this chunk of meat so special!

What is Pork Butt?

My boyfriend and I received a hunk of pork labeled “pork butt” in our most recent Butcher Box. I stood over the freezer with the massive chunk of meat in my hands, staring at the sticker on the plastic as somewhere in the catalogue of my cooking knowledge, dim recollections started bubbling towards my consciousness. Somewhere, somehow, at some point along my foodie journey, I remembered that pork butt is not in fact a pig’s butt.

We’ve all had ham, right? Well isn’t ham from the hindquarters of a pig? A quick Google search confirmed this.

where does ham come from?

Boom. Confirmed. Ham = rump. So why didn’t the massive slab of meat in my hands (which looked nothing like a ham, by the way) say “ham” if it was, in fact, from a pig’s butt?

Deep in the recesses of my brain, memories continued to stir, leading me to ask:

Are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

I googled diagrams of pork cuts. Let’s just say humans have certainly figured out how to get the very most out of the animal.

pork cuts

There it is: Boston butt, clearly distinct from ham!

But to make matters even more confusing, continued Googling revealed that Boston butt is also sometimes called Boston shoulder. Naturally, this lead to further questioning…

are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

As you can see in this diagram from The Spruce, the Boston butt sits just above the picnic shoulder on the pig.

 

Why is the Boston Butt Called the Boston Butt?

So, if the Boston butt doesn’t come from anywhere near the animal’s rump, why is it called a “butt”?!

As is true of many mysteries, the answer is rooted in history. In colonial New England during America’s fledgling years, butchers used to pack inexpensive cuts of shoulder meat into barrels, called “butts.” Used for transporting their wares across New England, the contents of these barrels became known as “pork butts,” the name we still call some shoulder meat today.

So yes, pork butt and pork shoulder, Boston butt and Boston shoulder, are all referring to the same cut of meat.

Primal Cuts of Pork

As you saw in the second diagram above (which is not even a complete breakdown of every cut of pork), we parse out many pieces of meat from a single pig.

First, however, a butcher must make several initial cuts, called primal cuts. These are shoulder, loin, belly, and hind leg cuts.

From there, an experienced butcher will continue to cut out pieces we know and love, like spare ribs, tenderloin, and bacon.

What Makes Certain Cuts of Meat More Expensive Than Others?

There are several factors in play when determining the value of a price of meat. These include but are not limited to:

  • flavor
  • tenderness of cut
  • fat marbeling
  • animal diet
  • USDA certifications, like organic or grass-fed and finished

Another influential factor is supply and demand. For example, Bacon is rich in fat marbling, inherently tender because of its cut, and also happens to be extremely flavorful. It is also simple to prepare because of these positive characteristics. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here when I say that these are the reasons why bacon is so popular. In short, it’s truly delicious.

What this means for the market, however, is that bacon prices range from $6.99 for 16 ounces to $17.50 for the same weight. Bacon quality ranges from the cheapest money to buy to the most luxuriously-seasoned, thick-cut bacon available. Unless we collectively undergo a radical cultural shift around the cuts of meat we love, there will always be a market for bacon.

Less favorable cuts from the pig, like pig feet, can go for as little as $2.00 per pound. Typically, people purchase pig feet for traditional recipes or for dog food, but still others work to break ground on new ways to use these less sought-after cuts. (For the curious, check out Serious Eats’ recipe for crispy grilled pig feet here.)

Cultural Shifts Affect the Price of Meat

Flank steak is an example of a cut of meat that has had its reputation revamped. Years ago, flank steak was dirt cheap. Flank steak is a very lean cut on the cow that generally has little fat marbling. If handled poorly, this cut of meat can be tough and flavorless.

But when certain diet trends suggested ways of preparing the lean cut of meat, like the South Beach Diet in the mid-1990s, it gained popularity. The price of flank steak last year according to the USDA was $8.25 per pound. This month, it’s $9.16.

From this example, we can see that cuts of meat we value culturally can shift. So who knows: maybe someday we will be inviting neighbors over for grilled pig’s feet!

How to Prepare Lean Cuts of Meat

There are several things to consider when you work with a lean cut of meat. When a cut of meat has little marbling, that means it will tend towards toughness and may be low on flavor.

Fortunately, there are certain tricks you can employ in order to make the most out of your lean cut of meat. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Marinate your meat. Marinating your meat in acid or vinaigrette helps to tenderize it before the cooking process. Lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are all great bases for marinades. Don’t forget to add a little honey to balance your flavors–honey is also acidic!
  2. Use a meat mallet. Physically tenderizing your tough cuts with a meat mallet or rolling pin helps to break down thick muscle fibers.
  3. Allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking. This will help the meat to cook more evenly, especially for bone-in cuts. More control over your meat temperature means more control over moisture and overall “done-ness”.
  4. Rest your meat after you cook it. This helps restore the natural juices in the meat by allowing them to redistribute around the whole cut, rather than spilling out under your knife once you start cutting. A general rule is, rest for five minutes per inch of thickness.
  5. Cook lean cuts low and slow. Slow-roasting lean cuts can reduce the risk of “shocking” the meat or causing unnecessary loss of moisture. This is especially true for braising, during which process the meat is completely submerged in tasty cooking liquid like broth or wine.
  6. Cook meat to the right internal temperature. It may seem obvious, but overcooking your meat highlights any negative characteristics, like toughness and dryness, which can be avoided by cooking it on the rarer side.
  7. Cut against the grain. Cutting against the grain of long muscle fibers makes for tender bites that are easy to chew. You might be amazed at what a difference this simple step can make!

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Perhaps the best part about this recipe is how simple it is. The primary flavor comes from whatever peppers you have in abundance, onion, and aromatic herbs. The soft, flavorful peppers make an excellent addition to your tacos as well as the meat from the braised pork butt.

sweet and hot peppers, candle, olive oil

Brush olive oil on your peppers and broil on high until the skin is blistered. I used red bell peppers, sweet mini peppers, and spicy Fresno peppers.

braised pork butt ingredients

After your peppers are blistered, allow them to rest in their own flavorful juices while you brown the meat. No need to get fussy over peeling garlic or mincing onion–big chunks here are great!

browned pork butt

Sear your pork butt, fatty side first, and save the rendered oil! Set meat aside while you sear your onion and garlic.

seared onion and garlic in pork fat

Once you’ve browned your meat on all sides, sear the garlic and onion to flavor rendered pork fat. Settle your meat, herbs, peppers, vinegar, and stock into the dutch oven and bring to a boil.

braising pork butt

Ideally, your meat will be completely submerged. My pork butt was MASSIVE, however, and would barely fit in the dutch oven. I compensated by leaving the dutch oven covered for the entirety of the cooking process and by rotating the meat halfway through.

After about four hours have elapsed, shred the pork butt into bite-sized chunks, cutting any particularly long muscle fibers against the grain for maximum tenderness. Spoon braised pork butt and sweet peppers into warm tortillas with some fresh vegetables and herbs, and top with a squeeze of lime!

sweet pepper braised pork butt tacos

For more braised meat recipes, check out this recipe for miso-braised au jus sandwiches, or for garlic and wine-braised short ribs!

braised pork butt tacos

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Using a few choice ingredients like garlic, onion, and aromatics, this dead-simple recipe is big on flavor and low on effort!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 35 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Intuitive, Mexican, Seasonal, traditional
Servings 8 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 5-7 lb pork butt or pork shoulder, at room temperature
  • 2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, whole
  • 4-6 sweet mini peppers, whole
  • 2-6 spicy peppers of your choice (I used Fresnos)
  • 1 white onion, skinned and cut into quarters
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 6-8 cups chicken or pork broth, or enough to completely submerge the pork
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • corn tortillas, warmed
  • 2 ears raw corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • cilantro, for serving
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Instructions
 

  • Turn the broiler on high. Brush your peppers in olive oil on all sides and arrange on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast under the heat until the skin begins to blister, turning peppers as necessary so they roast evenly. This should take between 4-7 minutes per side. Once your pepper skins have blistered, place in a bowl and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 275°F. Generously season the pork on all sides with salt. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat until drops of water quickly evaporate. Add pork shoulder, fattiest side down, and sear 5-8 minutes per side, or until deeply golden brown. Turn heat to medium-low and set the browned pork butt aside.
  • Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally and sear the exposed garlic cloves in the rendered pork fat until a nice caramel color, lowering heat if necessary. Remove from heat and add the onions. Sear undisturbed until the onion quarters take on some color, about 3 minutes.
  • Add stock and vinegar to the pan, scraping up any flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the dutch oven. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. Settle the pork butt into the liquid, fat side up, and add the two halves of the seared garlic head, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover, then place in the oven for 3.5-4 hours, or until pork is falling off the shoulder bone.
  • Pull pork out of the liquid using tongs and, once it has cooled slightly, break apart using a fork or gloved hands. If necessary, cut any long muscle fibers against the grain to enhance tenderness.
  • Gently pull peppers from the cooking liquid and remove seeds and stems. If desired, roughly chop into bite sized chunks. Using tongs, place pork, peppers, corn, and cilantro into a warm tortilla and squeeze lime over the top. Serve immediately. Pork keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
Keyword boston butt, can pork shoulder be used for pulled pork, comfort food, easy comfort food, feel good food, feel good food plan, intuitive cook, intuitive cooking, intuitive cuisine, intuitive eats, intuitive food plan, intuitive meals, pork butt, pork butt recipe, pork butt tacos, pork shoulder, pork shoulder recipe, pork shoulder tacos, pulled pork butt, pulled pork butt tacos, pulled pork shoulder, pulled pork shoulder recipes, pulled pork shoulder tacos, rustic comfort food, rustic meals, seasonal eats, seasonal recipes, simple comfort food, simple pork butt recipe, simple pork shoulder recipe, simple recipe, summer dinner plan, summer dinner recipes, summer recipes, sweet pepper, sweet pepper braised pork, sweet pepper braised pork butt, sweet pepper braised pork shoulder, what is pork shoulder used for, why pork shoulder is called boston butt, will pork shoulder work for pulled pork

Rustic Tomato Tart (Vegetarian)

If your vines are sagging with tomatoes and your larders are looking perilously full of produce, may I present to you a simple solution: rustic tomato tart. It has been a while since I’ve made anything so thoroughly gratifying in the kitchen, from the process of crafting this elevated form of tomatoes to digging into a savory bite of this delicious tart.

While this recipe happens to be vegetarian, what it lacks in meat it more than makes up for in flavor. Layers of spicy mustard, rich gruyère cheese, earthy herbs, and juicy, roasted, umami-rich tomatoes come together beautifully in this culinary delight, which seems to be at least cousins with pizza. You won’t even miss the meat. Promise.

This show-stopping rustic tart is definitely a labor of love. It takes nearly two hours to prepare from start to finish, but is definitely a dish you’ll want to share with other tomato fans. (Or pizza fans…or savory tart fans…or fans of wholesome-feeling food…)

There is something so comforting about ingredients enveloped in pastry, and this tomato tart is no exception. This is not a dish to get fussy over, or to try to make look perfect. The point, if I may say so, is to put summer’s voluptuous tomatoes on the pedestal they deserve, all in one scrumptious buttery crust. Forkable and finger-food-able, chances are you will not be able to cut yourself a big enough wedge of this mouth-watering rustic beauty!

Why Tomatoes Are Good For You

Whether you’re munching on a cherry tomato or digging into a funky heirloom varietal, there are certain nutritional elements that are universal in the delicious world of tomatoes.

Red tomatoes are high in an antioxidant called lycopene, for example. This gives them their red color which helps to protect them from ultraviolet light damage from the sun. Eating high amounts of lycopene can likewise protect your cells from ultraviolet rays, so eating tomatoes in summertime (i.e. when they naturally are abundant) just makes sense. Isn’t it great when nature works with us?

Additionally, lycopene is associated with cancer prevention. It also reduces “bad” cholesterol, which may help to prevent heart disease.

All tomatoes contain substances called lutein and zeaxanthin. These substances have been correlated with protecting your eyes from blue light from smartphones and computer screens. These compounds may also help to prevent age-related macular degeneration, the number one cause of blindness in the United States today.

Lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin have also been associated with lung health. Tomatoes may be beneficial to patients with asthma as well as those at risk for emphysema.

Tomatoes are also rich in:

  • potassium
  • vitamins E, C, and K
  • folate (vitamin B9)
  • soluble and insoluble fiber

Tomatoes’ high vitamin C content gives an added boost to your immune system. Their antioxidants help to reduce inflammation, and they even prevent your blood from clotting. All of these benefits are associated with stroke prevention.

Is It Better to Eat Raw or Cooked Tomatoes?

Certain nutritional elements are more easily absorbed when tomatoes are cooked, like lycopene. However, cooking the tomatoes (even gently) removes some of the vitamin C.

So, why are you eating tomatoes? (Other than their wonderful, tangy taste?!) If you are boosting your immune system, eat raw tomatoes. If you are hoping to incorporate more lycopene into your diet, cook those fruits!

Are Tomatoes Really a Fruit?

The short answer is yes. Fruits are ripened flower ovaries with seeds. By this definition, lots of produce we think of as a vegetable is actually a fruit. Zucchini, pumpkins, avocados, cucumbers, and okra are all “vegetables” that are actually fruits. For a longer list, click here.

Over time, however, botanists distinguished fruits from vegetables by their relatively higher fructose content.

Today, most nutritionists clump tomatoes in with vegetables. Turns out the answer is complex as the flavor profile of a tomato itself!

Rustic Tomato Tart

It’s time to use up those uber-ripe tomatoes! Gather your ingredients for the filling and prepare the shortcrust pastry.

super ripe tomatoes and tart filling ingredients

Simple ingredients, big flavor…what could be better?

short crust ingredients

Familiar ingredients come together in a unique way for this shortcrust pastry. If you don’t have a food processor, feel free to make a pie crust following my recipe. The recipe in the link above utilizes both rye and regular all-purpose flour, but you can feel free to use only all-purpose flour.

Are Shortcrust Pastry and Pie Crust the Same Thing?

Yes, both shortcrust and pie crust are referring to a flaky, fatty pastry that it’s best not to overwork. Shortpastry relies on minimal gluten development for its flaky nature. This means that the more you work your dough, the more you form gluten networks. Overworking means chewy crust, not flaky crust–a shortcrust faux pas!

shortcrust pastry

Roll out the pastry to fit a pie dish or tart pan between 9 and 11 inches.

unbaked rustic tart shell

Save any residual dough, as it can be used to patch any seams in your tart shell!

blind bake

As you can see, I ran out of dried beans and improvised with some rice to weigh down the crust. This is important to prevent large bubbles from forming in the shell as well as preventing the sides from slumping down. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

thick tomato slices "sweat" with a layer of salt

Salt your thick tomato wedges and allow them to sit for a few minutes and “sweat.” Blot them with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

basil, parsley, olive oil, salt, and garlic

Blitz herbs, garlic, and oil until relatively smooth.

basil and parsley herb puree

Once you’ve created your herb puree and blotted your tomatoes, you are ready to assemble your rustic tomato tart!

disassembled tomato tart

Spread the dijon in a thin layer over the base of the par-baked crust.

layer 1 tomato tart

Next goes the cheese…

layer 2 of the tomato tart

Over the cheese goes the herb puree. Spread it as evenly as you can, bearing in mind it will level as the tart cooks and relaxes in the hot oven.

layer 3 tomato tart

Layer your tomato slices over the top of the herb puree. Be generous and really load the tart with tomatoes. Keep in mind they will shrink in the hot oven, so don’t be afraid to layer them.

unbaked tomato tart

Roast in the oven until the tomatoes have caramelized nicely and released some of their juices.

slice of tomato tart

If you must serve yourself two helpings of this rustic tomato tart, there will certainly be no judgment from me…ENJOY!

This recipe is based on Smitten Kitchen’s tomato tart.

rustic tomato tart

Rustic Tomato Tart (Vegetarian)

Thick wedges of tomato roasted over a bed of herbs, sharp cheese, and shortcrust pastry make this tart a show-stopper!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Freezer Time 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Happy Hour, Main Course, Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, Comfort Food, French, Intuitive, Seasonal, Vegetarian
Servings 6 people

Equipment

  • food processor

Ingredients
  

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp cold water
  • dried beans, rice, or pie weights, for par-baking

Tomato Filling

  • 3 large, very ripe tomatoes (heirloom or beefsteak work great)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 1/2 cups parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard (Dijon works too)
  • 2 oz grated sharp cheese (Gruyere or Pecorino Romano are great picks)
  • freshly ground black pepper, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Add dry ingredients and butter to a food processor and pulse until the mixture has formed a coarse crumb. Add water and egg and pulse until dough just comes together. Using two sheets of wax or parchment paper, form the dough into a disc and roll it out between the two sheets using a rolling pin or wine bottle until it will fit into a tart pan or pie dish. Transfer the sheet of dough onto a plate or cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • While the dough is chilling, slice the tomatoes into 1/2" wedges and lay out on a rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with salt and allow to sit at room temperature while you work on the tart shell.
  • Remove the sheet of shortcrust from the freezer and work the dough into the pie dish or tart pan. Trim the edges as necessary and save any remaining dough for patching any tears that may have occurred. Prick the bottom and sides of the tart shell with a fork and place back in the freezer for another 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • While the tart is chilling for the second time, prepare the herb puree. Rinse out your food processor and add herbs, salt, and garlic and pulse until the herbs are finely cut. Add olive oil and pulse again until the mixture forms a paste. Set aside.
  • Pull the chilled tart shell out of the freezer. Line with parchment paper and add dried beans, rice, or pie weights until they climb up at least half the height of your tart shell walls. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust has begun to solidify. Remove pie weights and parchment, and bake another 5-10 minutes, or until the bottom of the tart is no longer shiny. Allow the tart shell to cool to room temperature.
  • Blot the tomatoes with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Spread mustard in the bottom of the ambient temperature tart shell. Sprinkle grated cheese over the mustard. Add an even layer of herb puree over the cheese, then arrange the tomato slices on top of that. Keep in mind they will shrink in the oven, so be generous and really load the tart with tomatoes. Crack pepper over the top layer of the tart.
  • Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the tomatoes are nicely roasted. Allow the tart to cool slightly. Best served warm. Keeps in the fridge up to 4 days.
Keyword are shortcrust and pie dough the same thing, are tomatoes fruits, are tomatoes fruits or vegetables, are tomatoes good for you, can you freeze tart, can you freeze tomato tart, comfort food, crumbs, crumbs on crumbs, crumbsoncrumbs, heirloom tomatoes, how to eat tomatoes, how to make tomato tart, intuitive chef, intuitive cook, intuitive cooking, intuitive cuisine, intuitive eats, intuitive meals, rustic meals, rustic tomato tart, savory tart, savory tart recipe, shortcrust, shortcrust pastry, show stopping tart, tomato dishes, tomato tart recipe, vegetarian comfort food, vegetarian entrees, vegetarian tart, ways to eat tomatoes, ways to use up tomatoes, what goes with tomato tart, what is tomato tart, what to serve with tomato tart, why tomatoes are good for you

What to Serve With Tomato Tart

I definitely ate generous slices of this as my dinner, but this tart works great as a side dish as well. Natural choices are a protein-rich salad, hearty sausages, or a balsamic-glazed flank steak. Don’t forget to eat this tart in the sunshine!

This tart keeps in the fridge up to 4 days. It doesn’t do great in the freezer due to the tomatoes’ high water content (water expands in the freezer, cell walls rupture, and you end up with tomato mush). This tart is for sharing, so eat it up quick!