“If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long-lost pal”
Theme song by Paul Simon “You Can Call Me Al” from Graceland
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To be honest, Paul Simon kinda lost me in the ’80s. I’m a big fan of his ’70s SNL-era work, but really never liked much of anything after Still Crazy After All These Years. He’s certainly remained a great songwriter, but his ’80s work just seems a bit pedestrian. Or worse, felt a bit exploitive. I understand what his intention was for Graceland, and it certainly made Ladysmith Black Mambazo a household name while sparking an interest in African pop. It just seems, looking back 40 years later, a little cringey. That is not to say there aren’t some great pop gems on the album. “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” and the album’s title track are great. For my money though, the best track is the theme song here. Yes, it was a big Top 40 Hit. Yes, it had that goofy MTV-driven music video with Chevy Chase. None of that matters because the sheer unadulterated joy of this track makes it irresistible.
Almost as irresistible as an al pastor taco. (See what I did there?) I’m a big fan of pork marinated in chiles and pineapple juice then slowly spit-roasted while roasted pineapple juice drips down the meat mountain. Sliced, placed on a tortilla, and topped with hot sauce, red onion, cheese, and that roasted pineapple. That’s perfection.
Unless one has gone mostly plant-based and still craves al pastor.
This recipe is the answer. Seitan subs in for pork. As most of us do not have a way to spit-roast, a backyard grill stands in. Finally, a homemade hot sauce (inspired by Danny Trejo’s character in Once Upon A Time In Mexico) ties it all together. Simple, vegetarian, and pure unadulterated taco joy.
YOU CAN CALL ME AL PASTOR
Seitan steaks, grilled pineapple, red onion, Mex-I-Can sauce, and queso fresco on flour tortillas
4-5 Seitan steaks (see recipe below)
Mex-I-Can sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 pineapple, cut into thick spears
1/2 red onion, diced
For the seitan
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
3/4 cup cooked small red beans
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons red miso
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon MSG or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 guajillo chiles, stemmed & seeded
1 cup pineapple juice
2 limes, juiced
3 cloves of garlic, grated
½ white onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon gochujang
Make the Marinade
Soak chiles in boiling water for 1/2 hour. Mince into a paste. Combine the chile paste with the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Set aside while making the seitan steaks.
Make the Seitan Steaks
Add all of the seitan ingredients to a food processor except the vital wheat gluten and blend into a smooth sauce. Add the vital wheat gluten and blend until well mixed, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed until everything is well mixed. There will be some dry spots but that’s ok.
(Alternatively, if you do not have a food processor you can first mash the cooked beans with a fork or potato masher, then add everything together in a large bowl and mix well.)
Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and begin to knead it together. It may be a bit crumbly at first, but keep kneading it for a few minutes until it comes together into a tight ball. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes on the counter covered with a clean towel.
After the dough has rested, knead it for 2-3 minutes. Then cut the ball into 5-ounce pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll out each section into 1/2″ thick steaks. The dough will be very tough and stretchy, but just keep working at it until you get your desired steak shapes.
Put the steaks in a steamer basket and cover them with a lid. It’s ok if they are overlapping a bit. Steam for 28 minutes, flipping the steaks halfway through so they steam evenly. They will double in size. Remove from steamer and let cool for 15 minutes.
Place the steaks in a large ziplock bag or air-tight container, mix the marinade ingredients, and pour them into the bag. Let marinate for 4-5 hours.
When ready to grill, set up a single zone fire either with charcoal or gas. Bring your grill up to 400°F. Place the pineapple over the direct heat and grill until lightly caramelized on all sides. Move the pineapple to the edge of the grill and place the seitan over direct heat. Pour 1/2 the leftover marinade over the seitan. Grill for 3-5 minutes or until lightly charred. Flip, pour the rest of the marinade over the seitan, and top with the pineapple. Grill until the seitan is lightly charred. Transfer seitan and pineapple to a tray. Toast a few tortillas on the grill.
Dice the grilled pineapple and slice the seitan into thin strips. Place a bit of Mex-I-Can sauce on a tortilla. Top with seitan, pineapple, red onion, and queso fresco. Add a bit more sauce if that’s your thing. Repeat for more tacos.
Makes about 1 cup
1 plum tomato, roughly chopped
1/4 sweet onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 chipotle pepper
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/4 cup water
Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.