Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Canal House Cooks Every Day: Pork in an Easy Red Mole

Pork in New Mexico Chile Mole with Cornbread
This is another recipe out of Canal House Cooks Every Day, and while the weather is nicely turning towards spring, farmers' markets haven't opened up yet in the Boston area... so I'm not quite ready to do 50 asparagus recipes or whatever we're supposed to do when you get a 70 degree day in April. Personally I'm of the opinion that chili is great any time of year, so if you're not starved for spring time recipes... and maybe a little tired of reading about the ramps you can't get yet... then please keep reading.

This is a very straightforward recipe... just pork butt stewed in a simple red mole sauce for a couple of hours. I think most people assume that a mole sauce has to have five different kinds of chilies, six kinds of nuts, and twenty other crazy ingredients... but that is not necessarily the case. Certainly for a special occasion you'll likely want to go to that effort for your turkey in mole poblano, but you can also make simple "everyday" moles that come together quickly. This particular red mole only calls for one type of chili and one type of nut to go with raisins and pretty typical dried spices, so it might not even require anything you don't already have in your pantry.

I've modified this recipe in two ways to make it a little simpler and quicker, and (I hope) better. The first change is to sub in New Mexico chilies for the guajillo chilies called for in the original. The flavor difference between the two is pretty modest, and dried New Mexico chilies are available in practically every grocery store in New England... whereas guajillos require a trip to a specialty spice shop or an internet order. If you've got easy access then, by all means use them. The second change is one championed by Kenji over at Serious Eats... browning only one side of your meat. You can read his reasoning in his recipe for Carne Adovada, tl;dr is that browning brings flavor but it also causes moisture loss and tougher meat, so the best of both worlds is simply browning one side. This provides the material benefit of flavorful and tender pork, but also saves you a ton of time when you are browning in batches.

Note that this dish renders a lot of fat, and as awesome as pork fat is you are probably going to want to get rid of most of it before serving. One solution is to simply have the stew the next day, as spooning off the fat of a completely cooled and refrigerated stew is pretty easy. Another way is to use a gravy separator.

Pork in an Easy Red Mole

Ingredients

  • 12 dried New Mexico chilies
  • 5 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 lbs boneless pork butt or Boston butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 medium onions, sliced
  • Pepper
  • half-bunch scallions, chopped
  • Large handful cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

  1. Tear off stems of the dried chilies and shake out the seeds. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Toast the chilies in the skillet, pressing them down with tongs and turning once or twice, until they are fragrant and turn a slightly darker shade, 30-60 seconds. Transfer the chilies to a medium bowl. Pour 2 cups of the hot chicken stock over the chilies and set them aside to soak until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes.
  2. Toast the almonds in the skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until pale golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool completely. Add the cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and peppercorns to the skillet and toast the spices over medium heat, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl to cool. Finely grind the almonds with 1 tsp of salt in a food processor or blender. Add the chilies and their soaking liquid, along with the toasted spices, raisins, and garlic, puree to a smooth paste.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Working in batches, brown the pork on one side, about 2-3 minutes per batch. Transfer the meat to a bowl as it browns. Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pot. Stir in the spice paste. Add 2 cups of the stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer the stew over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender, 2-3 hours. Add a little more stock to the pot if the stew begins to dry out. Serve the stew garnished with scallions and cilantro.