I’ve realized the last few posts are better suited for experienced cooks who are comfortable “throwing” together ingredients, familiar with what herbs complement different meats and vegetables, and most of all, don’t panic about not following a recipe line by line. So this time, I’m back to using a recipe as my base because I do want to encourage people to try to make their own food. It is a great pleasure for both the cook and the diners.
A few weeks ago, Tina brought over a copy of Cook’s Illustrated that featured Mexican dishes– appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts. I gravitated towards two of them: 1) Mexican rice and 2) chile pork and posole stew. I never seem to be able to get the texture of Mexican rice; it’s either too dry or too gummy, so I pocketed that recipe away for when I next make fajitas or tacos. I first had a pork and posole stew on a trip to Santa Fe and Albuquerque in my 20′s with my college pal Kenny (one of the reasons my son is so named) and loved its chewy texture.
So I turned my attention to the pork stew recipe; overall the dish resembled the Cook’s Illustrated white chicken chili recipe I got from Jacki, but with pork instead of chicken, roasted tomatillos and poblanos instead of the 3-chile blend, and posole instead of cannellini beans. (Posole is hominy, which in ground form, is what we know as grits). There were a few additional seasonings, yet I also saw the requisite cilantro and lime juice. This would be a warm fortifying meal for Ken before he tramped throughout the neighborhood with his posse of ghouls and zombies, and, between the German and Filipino food traditions, lies a love of all things schwein.
Here’s the recipe, and of course, I didn’t strictly follow or use the suggested measures or techniques. The following reflects my changes to both:
Chili Verde with Pork and Posole, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
- 1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and halved lengthwise
- 3 poblano chiles, seeds and stems removed, sliced in half lengthwise
- olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, pressed
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- large pinch of ground cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 lbs pork butt, cut into 1 to 2 inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 1/2 cups organic low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 2 (15 oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, roughly chopped
- juice of half a lime, or more to taste
I have never cooked with tomatillos before. I’ve had them plenty of times in restaurants, but never worked with them in my own kitchen. I vaguely remember reading that they should be green and hard, not soft. Eh, it’s an adventure, even for cooks like me! Here’s my starting place:
Note the giant pork shoulder, aka Boston butt, in the back. I initially pulled out smaller pieces of prepared boneless pork butt at the Asian market until I realized I could buy twice as much pork with the bone in than the prepared packs. So I went with an 8 lb pork shoulder with bone and decided it couldn’t be that hard to remove a shoulder bone…until I discovered there are no good YouTube videos on how to do this. As I started the deboning process, I kept telling myself that my dad was a surgeon and some of those carving skills had to have passed on to me via the DNA chain…
In the end it wasn’t too bad. I have a good boning knife and got 6 pounds of meat, and two pounds of bone and skin!
Next, I set the oven to broil and prepared the peppers and tomatillos. I learned that either the tomatillos or their husks are sticky; you have to rinse them. I threw all of it on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzled them with oil, then rubbed the surfaces of the vegetables to make sure they were all coated. I set the ti
mer for 2.5 minutes and saw that the skins were beginning to blacken, so I turned the baking sheet and set the timer for another two minutes. I ended up broiling another 1 1/2 minutes more then took the sheet out to cool everythin
g down. I moved the rack to the middle position and turned the oven down to 325 degrees.
While the peppers and tomatillos cooled, I put together the spice mixture (pressed garlic, sugar, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper) in a small bowl and mixed with a spoon. Note: the pressed garlic makes the mixture clump, but don’t worry about it; you’ll use the water or broth later to rinse off the bowl and spoon. I also chopped the onion.
The roasted vegetables were cool enough to handle so I peeled the poblanos and tossed them and the tomatillos, along with any juices into my food processor. Buzz it a dozen times til it looks like this, then set aside:
Now it was time to brown the pork cubes. Remember, I had already seasoned them with salt and pepper after the deboning process, so I just heated my old blue Le Creuset on medium high heat and swished around some olive oil. I decided there was enough pork that I would need to brown in three batches. You don’t want to over-crowd the pot or the meat steams instead of browns. Remember BROWN=FLAVOR. (Steam, well, it results in grey meat). After you toss in the meat, just let it sit there for TWO MINUTES. Don’t even think about moving it around. I have found that two minutes is the right amount of time to let the meat crust to the point it will release from the pan’s surface– easily, with no scraping. After two minutes, the meat should be brown and easily turned over; if not, wait another minute and try again– your pan may not have been hot enough. Put the browned meat into a tray or bowl.
Once the three batches were done, I swirled in a bit more oil, turned the heat down to medium and threw in the chopped onion. Then I let it sit for a minute or two so the juices from the onion would begin to deglaze all the porky fond. (I have previously written about my and Kurt’s love of fond). I stirred the onions around and continued cooking them til they were soft and translucent.
And lastly the clumpy spice mix– don’t toss the spoon and bowl into the sink just yet!
Now it’s time to add all the liquids– tomatillo/chile blend, water and chicken broth. Use some of the water to rinse any spice mix that clung to the bowl or spoon.
In case you’ve never seen whole hominy/posole, here’s what it looks like, drained and rinsed; it’s chewy and yummy!
Add the hominy and pork with any juices to the pot, then throw in the bay leaves. Stir everything together.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and clamp on a lid. Place in the preheated 325 degree oven for an hour, then stir, cover and cook another hour. Remove from the oven, pull out the bay leaves and add the cilantro and lime juice. Stir and taste again for salt and pepper.
As I finish this up, I hear Ken and his posse are back and commencing the candy trade-off– think I’ll grab a piece from him! Hope you had a Happy Halloween!