Pork

Everything is Better with Tacos: Pork and Green Chili Stew

I’m sorry about not posting last week. Computer Complications + First Family Visit in Six Months + Some Sort of Stomach Virus = No Free Time to Speak Of.

 

To quickly get to the point:  I’ve realized tacos are a universe-uniting food, capable of solving emotional problems and alleviating unwanted stress.

World Peace

I cooked for my parents while they were in town with a couple of old reliable recipes, but this recipe is definitely inspired by their visit. I’m happy that six months isn’t going to pass again before I see them. (By the way, Sacramento, I’m coming for you twice in November and for New Year’s Day.) However, I’m also happy that I’ll have an ace up my sleeve the next time they come to visit.

Pork and Green Chili Tacos

  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pork Shoulder (that’s Pork Butt, to you) cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • Sat and Pepper
  • 1 large Sweet Onion – finely chopped
  • 1 pound Mild Green Chilis – I used poblanos and anaheims – finely chopped
  • 3 Serrano Chilis – seeded and finely chopped
  • 6 Garlic Coves – finely chopped
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • Cilantro
  • Lime Wedges
  • Corn Tortillas

Heat the Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large pot over High heat. Season the pork shoulder cubes with salt and pepper to taste, and cook in the oil until lightly browned (less than 5 minutes.) Throw all vegetables into the pot, and cover the pot until the vegetables are soft. This should take another five-ish minutes.

“This recipe takes so much time,” she said sarcastically while drinking a Pacifico with lime.

Once the vegetables are soft, add the chicken broth and bring everything to a boil.

Once the stew is boiling, partially cover the pot and simmer over Medium-Low heat until the mixture has reduced by half (20-ish minutes.)

Stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with lime wedges on corn tortillas. If your parents like cocktails, make sure the beer is cold.

Pork Taco

I Have a Wish, But Also Here’s This Recipe for Pulled Pork

This one goes out to my family in Sacramento.

My family celebrates every special occasion in the same manner. Birthdays, Holidays, Funeral Services, Memorial Services, Engagements, Pregnancies…..you name the occasion, and the wagons will circle at my late Grandmother’s farm. We are also benefited (and incredibly lucky) by having numerous talented home cooks at our disposal. Every time we gather for a meal, there are inevitably enough leftovers for two more diet-busting dinners.

Exhibit A: New Year’s Day 2014.

However……take one guess at how many dishes on that table I contributed to? If you guessed anything other than, “None,” you are incorrect.

I love my family so much. I am proud of my heritage and know I am fortunate to have a multitude of strong family memories centered around food, large dinners, and laughter. Akin to so many brooding pre-teens and teenagers, I was absolutely unappreciative of these gifts while they were readily accessible to me. In elementary and middle school, I was a picky eater. I essentially used family dinners as an excuse to Hoover up – yes, I eat like a truck driver at these things – rice, mashed potatoes, and fruit salad, with the occasional piece of pumpkin pie or leftover appetizer to round things out. I shunned all vegetables except green beans, broccoli, and corn, and was so opposed to tomatoes, squash, and pickles, I might as well have been allergic to them.

So I realize I’ve created my own circumstances. I know it’s difficult for them to take me seriously as a cook after eighteen years of picky eating and marching numerous flaky significant others through our gatherings.

I wish I could cook for my family…..once.

I am hindered by being the youngest adult cousin and living almost 500 miles away. I realize there is very little room for me to sneak in edgewise with a side dish or dessert option, since everyone in the family already has their signature contributions to each meal. Dip and deviled eggs, baked beans, roasted, smoked, or blackened meat (brisket, teriyaki chicken, etc.), the list goes on. My family is full of nurturers who feed others, hard workers who never complain, and strong believers who stick together.

I just want to feed them, damn it.

I’ll put the request out there. I know you guys have real jobs and kids and such…..but on the off-chance you’re reading this whiny, selfish blog entry on your coffee break, between phone calls, or during commercials….the best birthday present I can currently imagine (aside from my usual request for no presents in lieu of a donation to the Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation) would be to cook a meal for all of you. 

You don’t have to love it. You don’t even have to like it. I would just feel incredibly honored to have the people who have funded my formative years and compose the majority of my core try my food. For those of you who are only here for the pulled pork recipe, I apologize for the “Full House” worthy speech. It’s below, and it slays. Make it at the risk of eating nothing else for four days.

Pulled Pork and Bonus Curating My Cooking’s Signature BBQ Sauce Prototype

For the Pork:

  • 2 Heads of Garlic, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup ish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dried Thyme
  • 2 teaspoons Mustard Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Fresh Ginger
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • One 1 and 1/2 lb. Pork Butt (it’s called a Shoulder Roast now, but it’s Pork Butt, okay?)
  • 1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup White Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Cider Vinegar

For the BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups Ketchup
  • 1 cup Cola (I highly recommend Mexican Coke)
  • 1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Crystals Hot Sauce (any other supposed “Louisiana” hot sauce is not up to snuff)
  • 2 tablespoons Molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Cornstarch

Turn your oven to 350.

Roast the garlic (season the halves with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher Salt, and Pepper to taste) for 1 hour ish. Let cool and squeeze the garlicky goodness out of the cloves. Trust me, the extra hour is worth the extra flavor. Plus, it gives you an hour to crack a beer and relax.

Combine the roasted garlic cloves with the thyme, mustard, paprika, ginger, orange zest, and 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a bowl and make a paste out of it.

Place the pork in a roasting pan, season on both sides with salt and pepper to taste, then rub the paste all over both sides of it. Use your hands. Get dirty and messy. It’s going to be amazing. Cover the roasting pan with foil and roast for 2 to 6 hours, depending on your oven’s degree of heat. (Stop every 45 minutes to baste the pan juices over the meat.)

If you’ve got a meat thermometer, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 200 Degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you’re obviously looking for the meat to be cooked cooked all the way through. That’s not pink anymore, for our newer students.

A Note: When I tried this recipe, I was able to get the appropriate texture after 2 and 1/2 hours of roasting, but I had to chop up the pork a bit. The longer you cook the pork for – provided you are willing to nurture, baste, and love it like a small child or puppy, ideally until the meat is literally falling apart – the more flavor it will have.

Once the pork is done roasting, combine 2 tablespoons of the fat/pan juices with the light brown sugar, white vinegar, cider vinegar, and one cup of water in a pot over Medium Low heat until bubbling. Toss this with the chopped/pulled pork and season with more kosher salt and pepper to taste.

To Make the BBQ Sauce: Combine all BBQ sauce ingredients in a pot and boil over Medium heat until glossy and thick.

I served this on Kings Hawaiian Rolls alongside killer cheese grits and sauteed kale made by my dear friend (and newest Netflix employee) Cully.

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I’d say this is worth at least one bite.

Cajun-Inspired Pork Chops with Kale and White Bean Stew

Does anyone else get anxiety when cooking for their parents?

More important, is anyone at the point in their life where their parents are turning into actual friends?

I actually love when my parents come to visit. It gives me an opportunity to step up my game, and show them they aren’t letting their daughter run wild in the big city.

The official reason for my parents’ visit was to help break up with a storage shed. (Thank you to both of you for doing all that heavy lifting while I was at work. Also thank you for being you. And for reading this blog. I digress.)

Cooking for my mother is easy. Cooking for my father is easy, as long as I give him exactly what he wants.

In my Father’s defense, he’s my biggest fan. He drove me to every activity of my formative years. This meant sitting in ice rinks, sweating at soccer games, or attempting to read a newspaper in a dance studio full of screaming children. These aren’t the only passions of mine he’s been forced to sit through. “Gossip Girl?” Seen it. “So You Think You Can Dance?” Absolutely. “Project Runway?” He’s a huge Tim Gunn fan. Now, he cooperates when I want to show him museum things and sits through my running commentary of every culinary television show on the planet.

No one does that. I’m not entirely certain why anyone would.

My father is much more of an omnivore than I. He also makes magical unicorn chili and the best hangover “junk eggs” known to man, but I digress again.

Before his visit to town, I scoured my notebooks and various food sources for meat points-of-reference. I even asked all the men in my life, which yielded classic steak, potato, and bacon results. Quite honestly, I’m not entirely certain when the word “pork chop” entered the scenario

Foods along classic Itailan or Cajun-inspired lines tend to be my father’s flavor profiles of choice. My mother eats the way I do, and loves fresh vegetables and fruit after growing up on a farm. (She’s another one who asks me about kale.) After finding an old “Food and Wine” recipe for a kale and white bean side dish, and letting my father choose the pork chops I’d be sliding under the broiler, I ended up with what my father called “Perfection.”

Cheers to a new family classic.

Cajun-Inspired Pork Chops with Kale and White Bean Stew

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Chili Powder
  • Jalapeno Hot Sauce (I used the Frontera brand, because I’m a celebrity chef disciple….and Rick Bayless is a badass)
  • 1 pound’s worth of bone-in pork chops – Look for thin ones, but you can always pound them a bit to thin them out so they don’t take as long to cook. Additional Advice: If your father or father-figure wants to pick these out, LET HIM.
  • Kosher Salt
  • 4 chopped Celery Stalks
  • 1 chopped large White Onion
  • 3 chopped Garlic Cloves
  • 3-ish cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  • One 15-ounce can (no salt added, or as low-sodium as the shelf will let you have) rinsed and drained Great Northern White Beans
  • 5 ounces roughly chopped Kale (I’m getting better about weighing my ingredients and proportions….I just need to remember to do it.)

Preheat your oven’s broiler.

Whisk together equal parts (start with a radio of 1 tablespoon each) of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chili Powder, and Hot Sauce.
(TASTE THIS to make sure the balance is right. The hot sauce is there to balance the acidic lemon taste of the Extra Virgin Olive oil. The chili powder is there for flavor, not heat. If you want heat, put pepper or chili flakes on the pork chops.)

Season the pork chops on both sides with kosher salt, pierce them with a fork in a few places, and smother with the sauce mixture. – The holes incorporate the flavor into the chop, instead of just on the outside.

Heat some Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pot over Medium Heat and saute the celery, onion, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of chili powder until the vegetables are translucent.

Once the vegetables are translucent, pour in the chicken stock and reduce the entire mixture by about 1/3. (Look at the boil line on the side of the pot for reference if you feel confused.)
When the mixture is reduced, add the white beans and kale and cook until the kale is tender (7 minutes ish.)
If you start to run out of liquid to cook the kale in, add water by 1/2 cup-increments. I didn’t have to do this, but I almost did, so be prepared.
Season the stew with salt to taste. (I didn’t use pepper or chili flakes this time, since my parents aren’t as big on spice as Mr. Right and I are, but feel free to do so in your own version.)

As soon as you add the white beans and kale to the stew, put the pork chops under the broiler, so everything that’s part of this dish comes out hot.
Broil the pork until browned – 4 to 6ish minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for 2ish minutes on the second side.

It’s certainly aesthetically pleasing enough to be a classic.