I have recently become mildly obsessed with Mexican street food, particularly tacos. Part of this comes from my not-so-mild obsession with Jose Andres, which led me and Katherine to his Oyamel restaurant (we’re such big fans we even held our rehearsal dinner there). But most of it is because tacos are great and it has been really fun to discover that there is so much more out there beyond Ortega hard shells and ground beef.
Given Katherine’s obvious affinity for Tacos al Pastor, a delicious mix of smoky and spicy pork, red onions, and pineapple, all cooked on the grill, I decided that I’d use a warm summer Sunday afternoon to try out this recipe. I’ve become a fan of Rick Bayless’ show Mexico: One Plate at a Time and I saw him make this recipe a couple of weeks back. It sounded like the perfect way to enjoy the sunshine.
I immediately encountered a problem when I looked up his recipe. It calls for achiote paste as a principal ingredient in the marinade for the pork. Achiote paste is a mix of ground annatto seed and other spices with vinegar and, according to Bayless, has a “hard to describe earthy flavor [and] is a primary spice in the Yucatan section of Mexico.” Despite his assurances that it can be found in well-stocked grocery stores, I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be in my local Whole Foods. And I was right; I found neither achiote paste or annatto seed.