Chef News

Kelly Liken's pork carnitas tacos are designed for kids -- but wowed adult judges

Kelly Liken, chef/owner of Restaurant Kelly Liken and one of the top-four contenders in this year's Top Chef DC, likes shallots. "I put them in almost everything," she says in this week's Chef and Tell (read the complete Kelly Liken interview here).

They definitely play a starring role in the Spice Crusted Grass Fed NY Strip Steak that Liken created for the first episode's elimination challenge. And in the Pan Roasted Halibut with Artichoke-Fennel Barigoule, Salsa Verde Salad that she created for the elimination challenge in episode 12.

But there's no shallot in sight in the recipe for Braised Pork Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Onions & Cilantro , a kid-friendly dish that really wowed the Top Chef judges in episode 2.

Here's that recipe:


Tortillas: ¾ cup oats, pulverized 1 ½ cup AP flour ¼ cup olive oil ½ cup cold water 1 Tbl salt

Pork Carnitas: 2 lbs pork butt 2 Tbl chili powder 1 Tbl garlic powder 1 Tbl onion powder Salt & Pepper Water

Roasted Tomato Salsa: 3 tomatoes ½ red onion ¼ cup lime juice ½ cup cilantro Salt & Pepper

Pickled Red Onions: 1 red onion, julienned 3 cups water 1 cup lime juice ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves



Place dry ingredients in a stand mixer with dough hook. Add wet ingredients and knead for 5 minutes. Allow dough to rest for at least 20 minutes. Using a tortilla press, press golf ball size portions between parchment paper. On a dry griddle over medium-high heat, cook tortillas until lightly brown.

Pork Carnitas:

Season and rub pork with spices, salt, and pepper. Put pork into a pressure cooker with enough water to cover the pork half way. Seal lid and place over medium-high heat. When steam starts, reduce to simmer and cook for 1 hour. When pork is done, pull into bite-sized pieces. Discard liquid. Pour roasted tomato salsa over pork and reserve in warm place.

Roasted Tomato Salsa:

Roast tomatoes and onion under broiler until charred. Combine with all remaining ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Pickled Red Onions:

Boil water and pour over onions. Let sit for 5 minutes. Strain. In a bowl, combine onions and lime juice and let sit overnight. Strain juice off and discard. Toss onions with cilantro leaves.

To Assemble:

Warm tortillas wrapped in a damp towel in a low oven. Place tortillas on plate. Top with pork. Garnish with picked onion salad. Serves four.

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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman