Monday, January 7, 2008

Pork & Green Chile Stew

My friends sometimes ask me, "how do you possibly come up with all the stories?" Or, "how can you write about every recipe?" Well, it seems that every recipe has its own story to tell. That's what makes cooking unique to each of us. It's how recipes are born. It's how a recipe from a website, or a cookbook, your friend Linda, or your Grandmother, with a slight change here and there, becomes your own. A creation from your intuition (well, sometimes it's just that you didn't have any carrots, so you used butternut squash instead, and it totally changed the dish). That's the start of a story.

"You must spend hours and hours at your computer?" they quiz. Well, yes and no. I do spend many hours a day at my computer, but I'm not always writing my blog. The blog though - it doesn't take that much time really, since I like to write. Writing comes easily to me. I wrote for 20+ years in my career. Writing was a big part of the job - I wrote mostly newspaper and magazine ads for companies wanting to hire people. Those small, medium to huge ads you see in the help wanted section week after week. There are ad agencies out there that do just that. Not product marketing type advertising, but people hunters. Not head hunters, but ads to encourage and entice people to apply for jobs. A client, the advertiser, would give us, the ad agency, some sketchy phrases about the job requirements, and about what this person would do. It was our job to fashion those phrases into cohesive sentences and paragraphs. Make the words logical. And their sequence make sense. Sometimes we'd use some fancy graphics to make the ad stand out. Other times it was a simple 2-inch ad with very small type. There were times when the ads were very hard to compose, I'll admit. Perhaps the client didn't give us much to work with. But usually there was enough.

So, you see, writing doesn't seem like drudgery to me. I always thought, years ago, that I'd find my inner voice - maybe a voice that would write a novel. But the reality is that my mind doesn't dream fiction stories. My head writes food stories. When I began putting all of my recipes into the MasterCook software, in one of the text cells I find that it invites me to explain the recipe. No, it doesn't ask that, but it seemed that with every recipe I entered, I had no difficulty at all writing up something about it. About when I'd served it. How I'd altered the recipe to suit a particular occasion. Or used the leftovers. Many of my recipes have long, evolved stories about their origin. Or who they came from. Like the Cold Green Pea Soup from our friend Pamela in England. Or the Bishop's Bread I just posted early last month from my mother's friend Mary. Or my mother's Apple Crisp.

Spending hours at the computer isn't hard work for me. (Hmmm. Just ask my DH how many hours a day I spend at the keyboard. Oh. No. Scratch that.) When I'm cooking, there are stages in most recipes when it needs to cook. So I flit over to my laptop that resides here in the kitchen and start a new story. Or finish one that's in progress. Or input a new recipe. Or insert a photo. Or even take a photo. I usually have 3-4 stories in progress at any one time. It seems that there is a kind of a schedule we bloggers keep. Gotta write a story. Gotta write a story every day. Almost anyway. I do my best. Perhaps there will come a day when I will look at this screen and tilt my head a bit and say, I have nothing to write about. But so far, that hasn't happened. I still have lots and lots of my own tried and true recipes to post here. It's just that I haven't made them recently, and I don't like posting a recipe and a story without a photo. You know that adage, a picture speaks a thousand words. So true with cooking.


So, now that I've waxed on for 500 words, it's time to talk about this recipe. This one started when I read a new cookbook I received for Christmas. I think I've mentioned that I constantly update my Amazon wish list with everything from cookbooks to kitchen appliances, etc. So our son and his wife gave me a book I'd requested, Cooking with Cafe Pasqual's, by Katherine Kagel, the owner and mind behind the fairly famous restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is Kagel's second book, and it's a nice addition to my library. I read it from cover to cover and put little flags on the pages I wanted to return to. One recipe that intrigued me was her version of Pork & Green Chile Stew.

Saturday, DH offered to go grocery shopping for me (he loves it, aren't I lucky?), so my mind immediately flipped to the stew. I put together a list. Now, in order to make sense of this whole story, you have to know that her recipe calls for 2 pounds of pork butt, corn, potatoes and nothing less than 16 fresh New Mexican or Anaheim chiles. I wanted to double the recipe, so that's 32 chiles. I thought - whew, that's a whole lotta chiles. But oh well. So, off my DH went. At his second stop, 20 minutes later he phoned. They didn't have pork butt. What would I like to do? Also, they had not one single Anaheim (California) chile pepper. He didn't have time to go to yet another store, so I said forget it, I'll make something else tomorrow.

Next chapter: that same afternoon I was doing some catching up on blog reading (I read a LOT of food blogs, which you can see if you look at the list down my right column). And when I've been away for 11 days, the catching up took me a long time. So, I was reading over at CooknKate, one of my favorites, and lo and behold, she was cookin' a Green Chile. Wow. Really? I studied the recipe. It was completely different than the one from Katherine Kagel. She had found the recipe over at Homesick Texan, another blog I read. I printed it out and decided to try THIS recipe instead of the other one. This one calls for 4 pounds of pork butt, poblano peppers (aka pasilla), jalapenos, tomatillos and beer! So today my darling hubby went out on another shopping expedition for me. He's so wonderful. This time he found pork shoulder, poblanos, jalapenos, tomatillos, cilantro and a fresh bag of masa harina. I was off and running (in the kitchen, that is).

The prep on this recipe did take more time than I'd thought. I mean - this is just a STEW for heaven's sake. The chiles had to be roasted, the tomatillos shucked, onion diced, garlic chopped, jalapenos minced, meat cut up in chunks. But the browning of all the meat was the most time consuming, and you wouldn't believe the state of my wood floors when I was done. My rubber-soled shoes slid along. Time out to wipe paper towels all over the floor. Reminder to have that carpet cleaned.

And when Kate mentioned about the heat from this stew making her eyebrows sweat, she was right. She cut down on the chiles from Homesick Texan's version, I decided to do the same. I used all five poblanos, but I used just two very large jalapenos. I shudder to think what this would taste like with more, or with the serranos. Five alarm for sure. More like ten alarm. I like spicy and moderately hot food, but this was too hot still. I've altered my version accordingly, and have upped the masa to thicken the gravy a bit more. We liked putting the mixture IN a flour tortilla, and the stew needs to be thicker for that. And I had a larger bottle of beer, so used all of it (probably 2 cups worth).

So you see, recipes evolve and morph. What's right for Kate, or Homesick Texan, become right for you when you make your own additions (or subtractions as the case may be). In either case, this pork green chile stew is a winner in my book. I'm looking forward to the leftovers. We each had just one cup in our bowls (ample) with a hot flour tortilla. Delish.

Pork & Green Chile Stew
Original recipe by: Homesick Texan blog
Source: CooknKate blog, and yet adapted more by me
Servings: 8
4 pounds pork shoulder, butt -- cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons flour
1 pound poblano pepper -- about 5, aka pasilla chiles
2 whole jalapeno pepper -- or more or less to suit your taste, minced
1 pound tomatillos -- cut in eighths
1 medium onion -- peeled and diced
6 whole garlic cloves -- minced
6 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons oregano
2/3 cup fresh cilantro -- or more if desired, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups beer
1/2 cup masa harina
2/3 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut the poblanos in half, seed (and remove the white ribs) and lay out on a roasting pan, skin sides up. Rub each with a bit of olive oil, then broil until blackened. Remove to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20 minutes, then (using rubber gloves if your skin is sensitive to chile heat) gently remove the skin. It should come right off if you're careful. Dice the chiles and set aside.
2. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty soup pot saute the onion in olive oil until just cooked, about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Do not brown the garlic. Turn off the heat and set aside.
3. Sprinkle the meat cubes with salt, pepper and some flour. In a large round skillet (or two, if you have them, because this takes awhile) heat olive oil and brown the pork cubes. Do not crowd the pan or they'll steam rather than brown. The crusty stuff adds lots of flavor to the stew. You may have to do several batches. As the pork is done, add it to the soup pot.
4. Once the meat browning is complete, add the chicken stock, beer, tomatillos, half the cumin, oregano and the jalapenos. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and low simmer, without a lid, for about an hour.
5. Add the remaining cumin, oregano and about half of the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you can see visible fat floating on top, remove with a flattish spoon or ladle.
6. Add the poblano chiles and simmer for another 30-45 minutes until the meat is fork tender. Use a lid if the mixture is getting too thick (or add a little bit of water). 7. Remove a bit of the stew liquid to a small bowl and add the masa harina - with some additional water to get it to smooth out to a thin paste, then slowly stir this into the stew. Continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes until thickened. Serve in bowls with sour cream dollop on top, additional cilantro sprigs and hot flour tortillas on the side.
Per Serving: 689 Calories; 42g Fat (55.9% calories from fat); 50g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 136mg Cholesterol; 334mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 6 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 4 1/2 Fat.
To print a PDF recipe, click title at top.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carolyn, I am SO glad I was not the only one to think the heat level was so searing. Can you imagine using all those peppers the recipe called for??


Next time I make it, I will tone it down even more. I just loved this stew and can't wait to have it again!

Kate(in the Kitchen)