Day Thirty: Pork Stew with Red Chiles

4 May

I’m pretty sure we can officially say that Tahoe has hit Spring. First beach bbq? Yep. Multiple days without wearing socks? Thankfully. No jacket required when outdoors? Check.  Cloudless vibrant blue skies? Oh yes. I couldn’t be happier. Unfortunately, May is notorious for switching from Spring to Winter in the blink of an eye and I’m hoping that this year is different – that we’ll be rewarded for surviving these past few months. Nobody knows, so for now, I’m enjoying the beautiful warmer days.

With the warmer weather brings different foods – more fresh vegetables and more grilling. I’m getting very excited to see what the CSA box has in store and what will be at the Farmer’s Market come June. However, with that said, there is still room for braised dishes every once in a while. This recipe is no exception. Despite being cooked low and slow for 8 hours in the slow cooker, the resulting product was fresh and bright, both in flavor and visually.

At first, when throwing all the ingredients in the slow cooker, it seems entirely bland and boring, even with the red chiles. But once that pork breaks down and all the flavors combine, along with the addition of lime juice, fresh cilantro and fresh jalepenos, the dish becomes magical. A beautiful plate with fresh greens and reds popping out (quite perfect for upcoming Cinco de Mayo, no?). The pork is enhanced by a spice from the red chiles that surprises you at the end and the tang from the fresh lime juice. The cloves offer a welcome warmth that serves a great backdrop for all the other flavors.

The inspiration for this dish came from the Yucatan Pork Stew with Ancho Chiles and Lime recipe I found on Food and Wine’s website. My version differs in a few ways: 1) I didn’t have fresh Ancho chiles, but instead used some dried New Mexico chiles I had in the pantry, 2) I opted to use canned, diced tomatoes in lieu of the fresh (I generally don’t like to use fresh tomatoes outside of tomato season), 3) I reduced the amount of liquid because of the canned tomatoes and use of the slow cooker, 4) I didn’t brown the meat, as I threw this together in the morning before I went to work, and 5) I added the lime juice at the end to impart a brighter citrus flavor.

Two comments on the substitutions. First is that the use of dried chiles most definitely produces a different flavor, as well as a different texture. Dried chiles result in more “chile skin” rather than chile flesh, as noted by Christian. I found the dish to be wonderful with my substitutions, and so did Christian, but since I haven’t made the original as written, I can’t make a true comparison. I also think browning the meat and not using the slow cooker could have added more richness, but I really don’t believe it would make or break the recipe. Since I wanted to throw it together before I left the house in the morning, I didn’t have time to go through the extra steps (or do the extra dishes).

This is a dish to try, no matter what season or temperature. It really would be perfect on a cold Winter night or a gorgeous Summer evening.

Pork Stew with Red Chiles

(Serves 4)

  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut in 2″ cubes
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes with juice (no salt added preferred)
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 dried New Mexico chiles
  • 3 carrots, cut in 2″ pieces crosswise
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 limes
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalepeno, sliced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring some water to boil over high heat; add the chiles and cook until softened. When done, remove chiles and slice open to discard seeds. Cut the chiles into thin strips.

Add all ingredients (pork through bay leaf) to the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Set to low and cook 6 to 8 hours.

When stew is done, add the juice of 2 limes and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle portions of stew over steamed white rice, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and jalepeno slices.


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