Monday, January 7, 2008

Smoky ancho chili pork stew

This last sunday we went out shopping to southcenter. We were halfway there when I realized I hadn't brought the recipe for the lentil chili I wanted to make.

"Lentil?"said Cobe, "no meat?"

I relented. We were out anyway. "Let's stop by Trader Joes."

I stared at the packages of beef but they just looked so blah. The pork shoulder was calling me. A few peppers, some cilantro. I could make it the same way as Jerry Traunfeld's pork stew, but with mexican spices.

At home I dug out my ancho chilis. I discovered ground ancho chilis this summer when making carne asada. Real chili powder, not that tasteless stuff from the grocery store. I pulled the stems and seeds out of a few and threw them in a coffee grinder, adding some whole cumin and coriander.

"Taste this!" I brought it into Cobe who was just stepping into the shower. Slightly smoky and sweet with this beautiful rich red color. His eyes widened.

I took out the pork and rubbed it with the mix, adding a bit of kosher salt. Then I threw a couple of sweet red peppers under the broiler to char them, letting the skin get black all over. They smelled incredible and at some point they seemed to deflate, giving a little audible sigh. Then I put them in a bag to rest, so the skins would slip off.

I pulled out some fresh tomatoes and dunked them in boiling water so their skins would slip off, then deseeded them as well.

Then I heated up some oil and browned the meat. A bit more complicated with all the spices as it's hard to see it browning. Might have been easier to add the chili after the meat, but then the flavor might change. Hard to say.

When the meat was browned I pulled it out and put in some onions and garlic, letting them cook down, then the peppers and tomatoes. And a little wine. And a can of tomatoes. Then I turned it way down and let the whole thing cook at barely a simmer for 2 hours. At that point the pork was falling-apart-good so I pulled it out and cooked down the sauce for about 5 minutes until it was nice and thick, then added some chopped cilantro.

Beautiful. Usually I feel like chili needs cheese or sour cream to balance it, but this was nice on it's own. Smoky sweet and a little spicy with the freshness of cilantro.

We had the leftover sauce over pasta the next night with a little grated cheese and it tasted perfect....still the flavor of pork and just the essence of chili. It's not too spicy. You might think it was italian. Very dark italian.

Slow cooked pork with ancho chilis and cilantro
(2 people)

1.5 pounds pork shoulder cut into big slabs
tomatoes, either fresh peeled and seeded or canned or both, chopped
(I used 5 fresh and a small can--to peel them dunk in boiling water for ~1minute, then the skins will slip off. Cut them in half to deseed them, pull seeds out with finger or spoon).
2-3 red peppers, charred under broiler and then peeled, seeded and chopped (see above)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/2 cup red wine
2 dried ancho chilis, pull off stems and deseed
1/2 tsp whole cumin
1/4 tsp whole coriander

Grind ancho chilis in coffee grinder with cumin and coriander. Coat all sides pork. Salt all sides as well (kosher salt). Brown in hot oil a few minutes on each side. Pull out pork, add onions and garlic to pan, cook until limp. Add fresh tomatoes if using and cook a few minutes, then add roasted red peppers, canned tomatoes and wine. Put pork back in pan and turn temperature down to lowest setting, simmer x 2 hours or until pork very tender. Pull out pork. Cook sauce down 5-10 minutes until thick (medium high). Add cilantro and pork, serve.

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