Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pork Chile Colorado Tacos

Pork Chile Colorado Tacos
My first experience with Chile Colorado was many years ago at a local burrito joint I used to frequent (it's still around but it is no longer a personal favorite), but they called their filling "Chicken Colorado" not "Chile Colorado" (normally the meat is pork)... and back in the day the intertubes were not so powerful and numerous as they are now, so I never really knew what it was (I live in New England after all). Indeed, I assumed it was some personal concoction that they had named after Colorado for idiosyncratic reasons. Fast forward to a few months ago when I finally ordered Diana Kennedey's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, which is one of the more definitive tomes on Mexican cooking... and while paging through it I finally discovered that chile colorado is actually a fairly straightforward red chile sauce. Reminiscent of a mole but much simpler with only a few ingredients.

For weeks this recipe (carne de puerco en chile colorado) sat bookmarked but unmade until I say Hank Shaw post a version for wild boar (or any meat really) and I decided it was time to finally make it. I did a mashup of the two recipes... cooking the pork Diana Kennedy's way (braise until almost done and then fry a bit for color) but using Mr. Shaw's choice of spice (cinnamon!) and liquids (crushed tomatoes and stock instead of water).

Note that you want some fat on the pork, and in my case I had a little too much... so when I got to the frying stage I actually removed all my pork and poured enough off to get back to three tablespoons. It's also possible you might have too little and need to add more. In either case I would remove all the pork and brown in batches (contrary to Diana Kennedy's instructions) simply because it's more efficient and not really any more work. Also, these are the chiles I used, but you could could go with whatever ones you like... I'd just make sure you have some legitimate red ones, like New Mexicos, for the color.

Chile Colorado

Ingredients

adapted from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico and Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook
  • 2 and 1/4 lbs boneless pork, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup and 1 cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles, with or without seeds based on heat preference
  • 4 dried ancho chiles, with or without seeds based on heat preference
  • 4 dried New Mexico chiles, with or without seeds based on heat preference
  • 2 tablespoons fat, oil or lard
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken (or pork if you have it) stock

Garnishes

  • Corn tortillas
  • Diced onion/shallot
  • Diced avocado
  • Queso cotija
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

Directions

  1. Put pork, salt, and 1/4 cup water in pan (with a lid) large enough to hold the cubed pork in two layers. Cook, covered, over low heat... stirring occasionally to keep things from sticking together... until the meat is just short of done. This will probably be about 45 minutes, but you'll have to keep an eye on it depending on the cut of meat. Possibly you'll run out of water and will need to add a little more at some point.
  2. While that's going on, crush the garlic, cumin, and oregano in a mortar and pestle. Cover the peppers with water in a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a blender jar along with 1 cup of water and the crushed garlic and spices and blend until smooth. Strain into a bowl with a fine mesh strainer and a spatula to squeeze out as much sauce as possible.
  3. Transfer the pork to a bowl with a slotted spoon and check your rendered fat. If it's less than 3 tablespoons add some, if it's more then pour some off. Turn the heat to medium high and brown the pork lightly in 2 batches. Return all pork to the pan and sprinkle with flour and keep turning until it browns. Add the strained red chile sauce a let it fry for a minute or two longer... making sure to scrape up any delicious brown bits. Add the cinnamon, tomatoes, and stock and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 15-20 minutes more. If the sauce is too thick for your preference just add some water or stock to thin it out.
  4. Traditionally it is served in bowls over rice with the above garnishes, but I just made tacos.