A taco's filling is infinitely variable, so it's easy to make them on the cheap. All you've got to do is pick a hearty but inexpensive filling, and practice rigid discipline with respect to your garnishes.
Pork butt can be had for a couple bucks a pound, and it's a fatty cut that responds beautifully to marinating and slow cooking. When it's shredded and mixed with a bit of barbecue sauce and a hint of chipotle, it's not only rich, but sweet, sour, and a little bit spicy. I add some crunchy, tangy red cabbage to complement the warm meat. Creamy cubes of avocado finish it off.
If you're feeling really thrifty, try shredding leftover turkey, mixing it with barbecue sauce and chipotle, and use it to fill your tacos.
Note: If you don't own a slow cooker, you can always cook the pork in the oven. Transfer it to a small Dutch oven, add the vegetables, and fill the pot with water about halfway up the pork. Cook, covered, at 325°F until the pork pulls apart easily with a fork, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Shopping List: 1 pound pork butt, $3; 1 avocado, $1; 1 pound red cabbage, $1; 4 flour tortillas (prorated), $1.50; 1 lime, $0.60; 4 tablespoons barbecue sauce (prorated), $0.50; 1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, plus some extra sauce, less than $0.25; 1 large carrot, $.50
Pantry Items: brown sugar, cider vinegar, salt, garlic, onion, ground coriander, sugar, oil
Total Cost (for 2 portions): $7.85
About the authors: Phoebe and Cara are the co-founders of Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a food and cooking website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. They have a heated, decade-long rivalry about whose Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie is the best. Their book, Big Girls, Small Kitchen, will be published in the spring of 2011 by William Morrow. Visit their blog here.
- 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound pork butt
- 1 carrot
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 3 tablespoons bottled or homemade barbecue sauce
- 1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, minced, plus extra sauce
- 1/4 medium red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (or use more cider vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil
- 4 flour tortillas
- 1 avocado, cubed
Mix together brown sugar, ground coriander, vinegar and 1 ½ tablespoons salt in bowl large enough to fit pork. Add pork, toss to combine, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Add half of carrot, garlic, and onion to bottom of slow cooker. Add pork and 2 tablespoons juice from marinade. Pour ½ cup water over pork. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for about 8 hours. Pork should be very tender and shred easily. Transfer to bowl, leaving vegetables behind. Shred with two forks. Add ½ teaspoon salt, three tablespoons broth, and barbecue sauce. Stir in minced chipotle and adobo sauce to taste. Season to taste with salt.
Meanwhile, combine 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and oil in large bowl. Julienne or shred remaining half of the carrot on large holes of box grater, and toss with cabbage to combine. Allow to sit for at least one hour. Season to taste with more salt, sugar, or vinegar.
Serve pork, cabbage, and diced avocado with warm flour tortillas, passing extra lime wedges tableside.