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baking prep

sober tuesday: the spicy shepherd

One of our favorite restaurants is a fancy taco joint about a mile from our apartment. We've been going there for years - in fact we went to A Toda Madre for dinner the night Aaron proposed. This may have been strategic because I defy you to be anything but amenable after feasting on a platter of these pork belly tacos...

In addition to serving the Tacos of Heaven, they also serve my favorite fruit-based cocktail in existence: the El Pastor. (It's the thing of beauty I'm drinking in the photo below from last year.) There isn't a bad thing in this drink. Per their menu, it's created from grilled pineapple, chipotle, lime, chile ancho liquor, exotico, and mezcal essence. And as good as all of that sounds... trust me, it tastes even better.

I was back at A Toda Madre last week for a friend's 30th birthday and realized - while sipping on the El Pastor, of course - that a knockoff could be perfect for Sober Tuesday (hence the name of this one: el pastor -> the shepherd). The grilled pineapple and ancho are such strong elements that they can carry the flavor without needing an alcohol to tie it together. So then I just had to brainstorm how to meld all of those flavors together since I wouldn't be using an ancho liquor or mezcal.

The end result, for my version at any rate, was to baste the grilled pineapple with an emulsified chipotle pepper, combined with lemon, honey, and cinnamon. I also made an ancho simple syrup that helps to bring in the remaining spice with a more mellow vehicle. While not quite the same taste, it definitely checked at least most of the boxes I was looking to replicate. I was so happy with the result! It's subtly sweet with a nice, smoky heat that lingers and keeps the mango and pineapple combination from being too sweet.

And bonus, I have a whole extra quart of it. A pineapple goes a long way, guys.


the spicy shepherd

yield: 2 drinks


Ancho Syrup:

2 dried ancho chiles, chopped into 1" pieces

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

Grilled Pineapple:

1 pineapple, cored and sliced into 1-1.5" slices

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1 TB honey

3 TB lemon juice

1 tsp cinnamon


2 cups grilled pineapple, chopped

¾ cup mango juice (I used this Trader Joe's variety and am now hooked on it plain too.)

1½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice

1½ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 oz ancho syrup

Sparkling water or club soda


For the ancho syrup:

  1. In a small saucepan, stir the sugar and water together over medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved.

  2. Add the ancho pepper and stir until the liquid comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue stirring for 2-3 minutes.

  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to steep for 30 minutes, then strain into a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the grilled pineapple:

  1. Combine the chipotle pepper, honey, lemon, and cinnamon in a measuring pitcher and emulsify with an immersion blender (again, this set is my go-to).

  2. Heat a grill or grill pan and spray lightly with nonstick spray.

  3. Brush the pineapple slices with the prepared chipotle marinade and grill for about 5 minutes on each side, or until softened and caramelized. Baste throughout cooking as needed.

For the mocktail:

  1. In a blender, combine the grilled pineapple, mango juice, lime, lemon, and ancho syrup and blend until fully smooth.

  2. Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the blended pineapple juice until the glass is ¾ full.

  3. Top off with sparkling water and stir with a cocktail spoon until thoroughly combined.

  4. Garnish with a reserved pieces of grilled pineapple and a lime twist.

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Pick varieties and flavors that bring you joy. Not everyone is a baker and not everyone likes to cook. 


Enjoy the process. One of my favorite things while baking is to knead the dough and feel how it changes in my hands. I love chopping vegetables that came fresh from the farmer's market, brushing the dirt off the leaves, and creating with something that came from the earth.


Listen to jazz. I know this is a personal preference, but there are few things that give me quite the feeling of contentment as cooking a good meal with a glass of wine and a Thelonius record on in the background.

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