East Asian, Frenchy Things, Pork Products, preserving

The Lardy Boys.

One of the great culinary travesties of the twentieth century was the industry-driven transformation of pork from a rich, fatty meat of deep flavor to a dry, stringy, neutral-tasting protein bred to compete with chicken breast meat. “Pork. The Other White Meat.” I was in college when I started seeing the logo – a slightly skewed circle, resembling a cross-cut slice of tenderloin, bearing the word “Pork” in delicate, slightly Asiatic, script. Soon after, the recipes began to emerge: grilled pork loin with orange glaze; roast tenderloin with cherry sauce. Maple-bourbon marinades, teriyaki sauces, and all that. We dressed up the pork to make up for the fact that the meat no longer had any flavor, and we sauced it to death to compensate for its terrible dryness. Pork became our blank canvas. It was a terrible thing.

Well, the king is dead. Say hello to “Pork Be Inspired.” I don’t know who comes up with this stuff.

How’s this for inspiration: let’s make the most of pork in all its rich, hoggy glory. Here’s the thing. Even while the pork industry touted its product as the alternative to chicken and sought to breed nearly all the fat and flavor out of the meat, the USDA considers pork a red meat. You should too. When I travel abroad, I’m reminded of the pork I ate as a little kid, before the industry got its mitts all over our hogs and turned them into generic white protein. Well, if I wanted that, I’d eat tofu. Also, there’s more to pork than tenderloin and loin chops.

Look at these lardy boys – a rosy pork shoulder and a pork belly with layers of deep pink meat and creamy white fat. Make the most of them by cooking them slowly, at low temperatures, to melt down the tough collagen and the fat. Don’t cringe because it’ll wreck your diet or shrink in fear of your hardening arteries. Consider this: people around the world in countries with longer life expectancies and lower obesity rates than the United States eat pork in delicious, fatty forms like rillettes and pâtés, red-cooked pork belly, lardo. They just don’t eat them in ludicrous quantities. Let’s do the same.

Super fatty shoulder (sorry, forgot to take it out of the bag first).

Say hello to Mr Belly.

Pork rillettes

Easiest thing ever, just a bunch of hours curing in the refrigerator and then cooking in its own fat in the oven. Pig meat won’t stay pink unless you add nitrite in the form of tinted curing mix (“pink salt”) during the short cure. I recognize the whole nitrite thing is controversial, so decide for yourself whether you want your rillettes on the brownish gray but natural side, or whether you prefer a dusky rose color and the slight nitric tang of nitrite-treated meat. I suppose I prefer the untreated rillettes, but that’s just me.

If your shoulder cut is super lardy – like the one depicted in this photo – you’ll come out with more melted fat than you want to incorporate into the rillettes. In that case, save it. Keep it in the freezer, tightly sealed, and use it for frying. You won’t have to thaw the fat every time you want to use it – the lard doesn’t freeze rock solid. You can add to your lard stockpile whenever you have leftover rendered pork fat.

4 lb slab of pork shoulder or butt, the fattiest you can find
6 tsp kosher salt
6 sprigs thyme
1/2 c Italian parsley leaves, washed and spun dry
Optional: 1/8 tsp TCM (pink salt)
4 sprigs thyme
2 tsp each black peppercorns, coriander seed
If you have it, about 225 ml/1c rendered pork or duck fat from a previous preparation; otherwise, you can omit

Dijon mustard
Black pepper, ground
Bay leaves

Two days before cooking, blitz the salt, TCM (if using), thyme, and parsley in a spice grinder or food processor and coat the pork, as well as any fat pockets, with the green salt. Wrap in plastic clingfilm, place in a stainless steel or plastic pan, and place in the refrigerator for two days. Turn over once after a day.

With green salt.

Oven 190F/85C. Rinse the pork well of green salt and dry with towels. Place in the smallest possible roasting pan, deep enough to rise up to the sides and, if possible, tight enough to touch the roast on all sides.

Rinsed of green salt, dried, and tucked into a small baking pan (notice it touches the sides).

Tie up one teaspoon each of the coriander and peppercorn in separate cheesecloth bundles and tuck on opposite sides of the pork with the thyme sprigs. Place the cold pork or duck fat on top if you have it. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 10-12 hours. Remove and chill the pork in the fat.

After twelve hours.

Lift the pork from the fat and measure out about 1 c fat. Keep both cold. Remove the pork meat from the bones, if present, and separate the meat from any chunks of unrendered fat by hand (save that to render separately – see the Cracklings instructions below). You should have two pounds of meat or more. Chop the meat very coarsely (about 1 1/2″ long) if the strands are long and ropy. In a bowl, combine two pounds of the pork meat (reserving the rest), 2 tbsp mustard, a little black pepper (about ¼ tsp), and about 1/2 c cold pork fat.

Stir using a sturdy, large fork, incorporating the fat. Add another ¼ tsp pepper, another 2 tbsp mustard, and another ¼ c pork fat. Continue stirring, breaking up the fibers. Taste at this point for texture, which should be rich and neither overly lean nor greasy. If it is too lean, add another 2 tbsp to ¼ c pork fat (or more); if is too fat, add a little more meat and mustard. Otherwise, just taste for mustard and pepper. Cover and keep cold. If you have any leftover meat, keep it for another use.

Melt the remaining pork fat (again, see Cracklings, below). When melted, pack rillettes into sterilized lidded jars and cover with ¼ inch liquid pork fat and a bay leaf. Insert rubber gasket into jar and close. Keep refrigerated and do not open until ready to serve. Store refrigerated and unopened for two months or so. Once opened, consume within the week.

Pork rillettes, bay.

Cracklings

The crispy crunchy bits left over when you render the fat from the pork shoulder are similar to the crackling from a properly air-dried and roasted pork belly. They’re far easier to produce, though, because you don’t have to worry about drying the skin with salt, wiping off the moisture, roasting it at a properly high temperature, and so on. All you need to do is roast the pieces of fat until they melt, leaving behind crisp bits frying in the bubbling pork fat.

Liquid pork fat from previous recipe
Scraps of solid, unrendered pork fat, diced

Oven 350F/227C.

Place the fats in an small baking dish. Bake until the fats bubble and the fat renders from the scraps, leaving them golden and crisp. Stir to redistribute or break up if necessary. Drain the fat through a strainer and refrigerate or freeze for another purpose. Use the cracklings as a garniture for salads or to add texture to other dishes, such as cassoulet.

Crackling.

Bacon and eggs

Why do eggs and pork taste so great together? I don’t know – maybe it’s the mildly sulfurous quality of the eggs plus the pork’s sweet fattiness, or something – but it’s an almost universal combination in pork-eating cultures. From bacon and fried eggs in the classic English breakfast, to Scotch eggs, to country pâtés encasing a hard-boiled egg, to braised pork belly and salted duck eggs in the Chinese steamed rice dumpling, zongzi (粽子), rich fatty pork and eggs are a classic combination. Hell, just today on NPR’s website, I read about a sandwich in Chicago that involves smoked ham, a breaded pork tenderloin, bacon, and a fried egg. See? Universal combination. I’m trying to move us closer to Chicago so I can get reliable access to that sandwich. Oh, and EggMcMuffin! I rest my case.

Speaking of zongzi. When I was a kid, my dad occasionally came home from trips to Chicago with a bag of zongzi, meaning he’d somehow managed to visit Chicago’s Chinatown. This was a real treat, since I didn’t get to eat them often – maybe once a year – and was in the same vein as other occasional food souvenirs, like the Baltimore crabs Dad would bring home from trips to Washington DC, or the rare lobster from Boston that always went right into the pot as soon as he walked in the door. Actually, the food souvenirs I think I received the most often were the little waxed cardboard box lunches served on short flights from the East Coast back to Milwaukee. My dad would bring the entire box home to me – little ham sandwich, cookie and all – and I considered it extremely glamorous. Is that sad? Well, I was eight years old, so I think it’s not as sad as getting excited about getting some stupid tiny little dry cookie on a Delta flight just because it’s still free.

Anyway, this is a modernized and deconstructed zongzi using a poached egg instead of a salted duck’s egg, and a seasoned sticky rice instead of a bamboo leaf-wrapped dumpling. When you eat it together, it tastes just like zongzi. I don’t kid myself that you’ll ever make this dish but maybe you’ll try one or two components. Try the pork and the egg, of course, even if you serve it over steamed rice or ramen. In fact, soy sauce-braised pork with hard boiled eggs is a classic Taiwanese dish, so that would be awesome. Or try the rice and the egg, and add some diced Chinese sausage (la chang, or lap cheong in Cantonese, 臘腸) to the rice for the pork component).

The belly:

2 lb pork belly, skin on, bone removed
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1-1/2″ cube yellow rock sugar
1 pod star anise
2 tbsp soy sauce (Japanese white soy preferably)
1 bay leaf (Turkish)
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic

Prepare the belly the day before.

Blanch belly, starting in cold filtered water. Remove once water just comes to a boil. Belly may be blanched ahead of time and refrigerated or proceed immediately to the next step.

Place blanched belly in stock, in a single layer in a deep heavy pot, with the other ingredients. Bring to a bare simmer and reduce heat. Cover with parchment and a slightly ajar lid. Braise six hours.

Discard parchment and remove belly from stock and place in a small pan (1/4 hotel is good). Cover with strained braising liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil, and then weight the top of the belly with a heavy flat object. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

The mushroom:

2-3 hen of the woods/maitake mushrooms, broken into segments, or 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/2″ thick, or a mixture
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
white pepper
vegetable oil

Place a deep, heavy pan over medium heat and, when hot, add about 1 tbsp oil to the pan. Add the mushrooms, browning well on each side, until tender.

Add the Shaoxing wine to the pan and cook until the mushrooms absorb the liquid. Finish with soy. Season with pepper. Keep warm. Alternatively, these may be prepared a day before service and chilled.

The rice:

Note: glutinous rice , also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is not the same thing as short-grain rice, sushi rice, Arborio rice, or any of those things. In its raw form, it is chalk-white and totally opaque, unlike the other translucent-looking varieties of rice, whatever their grain lengths. Do not substitute another type of rice using this cooking method – it will fall apart.

If you cannot find glutinous rice, dispense with soaking the rice and do not steam it. Rather, cook the rice by adding water in the appropriate ratio to the rice you use after sautéing the rice in oil or XO sauce and cook over lowest heat, covered, until the water is absorbed. The rice will not have the same sticky texture as the glutinous rice.

1 c glutinous (sweet) rice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 white pepper
1 1/2 tbsp XO sauce or 2 tsp dried shrimp
vegetable oil

Rinse the glutinous rice and soak in 3c water, in the refrigerator, for at least three hours and up to overnight. Drain thoroughly.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the XO sauce or, if using dried shrimp, add a small amount of vegetable oil. and then add the dried shrimp. Sauté until fragrant. Add the rice and sauté a minute more until well coated. Season with pepper and soy and remove from heat. You can prepare this component the day before service to this point and refrigerate.

Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Lightly oil a bamboo rice steamer basket (with pork fat if you have it, or with vegetable oil). If you do not have such a basket, line a bamboo or metal steamer with a triple thickness of cheesecloth draping it over the sides.. Scoop the rice mixture into the basket. Close the lid tightly. Place over the pot of simmering water and steam for 40 minutes until the rice is tender but still firm. Remove from heat and remove lid; turn out into a 6″ x 9″ pan, like a breading pan or a plastic food storage container. Press down well to compress. Slice through with a moist sharp knife into equal portions.

Compress the rice.

To assemble dish:

Oven 250F/121C.

Remove fat from liquid (liquid will have gelled – be sure to save as much liquid as possible). Remove bellies and trim to square off edges. Reserve trimmings for future use. Cut into squares or rectangles of uniform size.

After weighting.

Place skillet on high heat. Place belly slices in skillet, skin side down, and cook until the skin is crisp and fat renders. Turn over and place in the oven to heat through, about 20 minutes.

The sauce:

3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 c gelled pork braising stock from braise/chill, defatted

Place a small saucepan over medium low heat and add the Shaoxing wine. Reduce by two-thirds. Add the soy sauce and reduce by half. Add the stock and reduce until the sauce has thickened and has the consistency of a pan sauce. Hold until service (add water and reheat/reduce again if necessary).

Poach eggs and pat dry on clean kitchen towels.

Serve the belly with the rice, the poached egg, mushroom, and a spoon of sauce.

Pork belly, soft egg, sticky rice "zongzi" style.

Yolk.

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Pork Products, Random Thoughts

False.

Sometimes things aren’t what they appear to be. When I was a child one of my favorite things was the safekeeping box, made to hold jewelry and other valuables, that looks like a book. In the National Palace Museum in Taipei resides a slab of jasper – brownish red and layered like meat – that presents an uncanny resemblance to a chunk of soy sauce-braised pork. Once, I stayed in a Barcelona hotel whose ceiling and walls were painted to resemble the sky. Imitation – to amuse or deceive – has been practiced throughout history. This also is true of food. Heston Blumenthal’s bag of tricks includes an homage to the medieval British practice of rendering meat into fruitlike shapes. In the forgotten ancient technique, pork mince, for example, might be rolled in saffron-tinted breadcrumbs to resemble an orange, though it does not taste of orange. Unlike the original, Blumenthal’s trompe l’oeil meat fruit bears an uncanny resemblance to the fruit in question, and incorporates its flavors as well.

For Thanksgiving, I largely ceded kitchen control to my husband who, as you know, enjoys making the turkey. Because I can’t help myself, though, I insisted on making the sausage for his chestnut-sausage dressing. I bought a pork shoulder and began breaking it down, taking it off the bone and cubing it to freeze briefly before grinding. As I sliced and cubed the meat, I noticed something interesting. The slab of pork in my hand – a two inch-thick chunk including the surface fat – looked almost exactly like pork belly, down to the layers, only not quite as fatty.

Is it belly? Or is it not?

How strange, I thought. I will have to do something about that.

I finished cubing the remainder of the meat for the sausage and spread it on a sheet pan to freeze. Then I turned my attention to the chunk of shoulder on the cutting board. Some time, if I’m in a position to do so, I’m going to have a few words with the people who establish meat butchery guidelines for Whole Foods. I suspect they think they’re giving their customers a nicely-trimmed piece of pork with less waste (and fewer scary parts), but they slice all the fun right out of the pig when they trim off all the fat. One of the reasons for home cooks to buy pork at Whole Foods rather than, say, Safeway is to take advantage of the better quality Niman Ranch goods and avoid the scary, hyper-mass-farmed Smithfield product. Better pig-raising conditions, better meat quality. Sadly, Whole Foods takes care to trim every last scrap of fat off the pork, taking with it all the flavor and texture. Not only that, but you can’t get the good parts of the pig half the time – no belly, no leg, no cheek or jowl, rarely a bone-in butt or a fresh ham. It’s as though they didn’t get the memo that the Other White Meat slogan is passé.

Back to the cutting board. This shoulder slab could pass for belly, which, if you were just reading my tirade against Whole Foods, is not easy to find at retail outside Asian markets. I would have had a larger chunk if I’d noticed earlier, but the portion I had would have to do. I cured the pork under weights as though it were belly – in a dry brine of salt and sugar – and laid it atop thyme branches and bay. After a few days, I sealed and cooked it, sous vide, at 144F/62C, for 36 hours. The resulting product was tender and a little fatty, not quite as rich as fresh belly, but similar. Its texture and flavor was quite like braised bacon, which I make from my own house-cured pork.

False belly

To butcher the false belly, remove the bone from a pork shoulder (picnic). The butt end does not usually present the right type of fat striation for this preparation. Do not trim the surface fat. If you have a skin-on shoulder and plan to cook the meat sous vide, remove the skin using a very sharp knife but leave as much fat as you can. Look for the portion along the skin side where the fat and meat are layered. Lay the pork shoulder flat on that skin side and slice a little more than two inches above and parallel to the skin. The portion on the board is your false belly. Trim it into 2″ x 2″ cubes or long, two inch-wide, strips. The remaining pork is perfect for sausage or cubed for a pork stew.

Cure the belly:

Per 500g (1.1 lbs) meat:

25g (1 1/2 tbsp) salt (not iodized)
25g (1 1/2 tbsp) sugar
thyme branches
bay leaf

Combine the salt and sugar. Distribute evenly on the meat. Arrange meat-side down in a nonreactive pan (stainless, ceramic, or lexan) atop thyme branches and bay, tightly together. Cover and weight. Cure under refrigeration for not fewer than 24 hours but not more than four days.

Remove from cure and rinse; pat dry. Season with a pinch of espelette pepper and seal with 50g butter/500g pork in foodsafe plastic. Vacuum pack.

Top side.

Bottom side.

Place in an immersion circulator or sous vide supreme for 36 hours at 140F/60C [note – I prepared it at 144F/62C but, if I had to do it again, I would lower the temperature slightly]. The meat will be cooked to medium. Alternatively, oven braise at 220F in chicken stock with bay leaf, thyme, garlic, and one piece of rock sugar for about 4 hours. Be sure the top layer of fat remains above the liquid. Use a parchment lid as well as the pot’s lid.

Remove from the circulator and unpack. If you have time, wrap the pork in plastic wrap and place it in a container, cover with another flat container and weight. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and then square off.

300F oven.

Before serving, score the top layer of fat. Place a skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add duck fat, pork fat, or clarified butter. Heat the false belly, meat side-down, for a minute; turn over to skin side-down and place in the oven. Heat through. Serve with accompaniments of choice, such as bitter greens. As depicted below, the false belly is served with duck confit, judion beans braised in pork stock, fried breadcrumb, and “cassoulet” flavors.

pork belly, duck confit, judion, breadcrumb.

False belly, closer in.

Below is a photo of braised house-cured belly I prepared this summer, when our fennel was in bloom. Can you see the difference? The fat layers are thicker and more distinct. But if you’re looking to substitute for belly – either because you can’t find it, or because you want something a little less fatty – this false cut may serve your purposes nicely.

True pork belly, apricot fluid gel, fennel blossom.

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Latin, Leftover Recycling, Pork Products, Quick Meals

Recycling is good, the cross-border edition.

So let’s say you made the pork shoulder and the grits the other night, and now you’ve got leftovers. Some people love leftovers, just as they are. But for a lot of people – more, in my experience – leftovers = been there/done that = wasted food. And the pork and grits are too good to go to waste. In these cases, it’s always good to recycle.

We don’t have tamales often at home. Normally, tamales begin with a corn-based dough, called masa. To prepare masa, corn is soaked in a solution of ash (generally potash [K2CO3] dissolved in water], or limewater (calcium carbonate [CaCO3] dissolved in water); the alkaline solution makes available niacin, a B vitamin that is not available in unprocessed corn. This process, called nixtamalization, is ancient, and probably made possible the reliance of Mesoamerican people on a corn-based diet.

Conventionally, to make tamales, one combines nixtamalized cornmeal (masa de harina) with water to hydrate, and then with lard to add unctuousness and flavor, and baking powder for lightness. The masa is spread inside a banana leaf or corn husk (or occasionally a chard leaf), enclosing a savory or sweet filling. The leaf is wrapped to enclose the filling, the tamales are stacked in a steamer, and steamed until firm. It’s not difficult, but I don’t make tamales or tortillas often enough to use up the biggish bags of masa de harina from the Latin market before they go stale. And you probably don’t either.

I had an idea last night, when I looked through the refrigerator and found the leftover grits. Sure, they’re not masa. For a quick evening meal, though, spreading the leftover grits inside banana leaves and enclosing some of the leftover pork might make a perfectly good imitation tamal. The grits, like all cornmeal dishes, tend to firm up on cooling, like masa; the sour orange flavors in the pork, combined with the banana leaves, would be reminiscent of the Yucatán. And the whole thing would take about twenty minutes, from wrapping to eating.

Are these authentic tamales? No. Are they quick and delicious? Yes. They’re also much lighter. To complete the tasty bastardization, serve the tamales with a little of the remaining red or green chile sauce, and follow up with an avocado and orange salad.

Pork “tamales”

Banana leaves are widely available in the freezer section of the supermarket. Check the Latin foods section – Goya provides frozen banana leaves in large, square plastic packets for just a couple of dollars. If you live in an area with a large Central American or Southeast Asian population, you may be able to find them fresh at a Latin or Asian market. Rinse well and remove the large central rib from fresh leaves – it usually has been removed in the frozen product. For maximum flavor and pliability, steam the leaves in a basket above simmering water for about 15-20 minutes before using. You can skip this step to save time.

The recipes for the grits, pork, and the red/green chile sauces all come from the “Christmas” post.

2 1/2 c leftover grits
1/2 c corn kernels, cut off the cob (optional – I was trying to use up some corn in the freezer)
1 c leftover pork shoulder in mojo, diced 1/4″
6 banana leaf sections, about 12″/30cm square or so
leftover red and/or green chile sauce

Spread a banana leaf on a cutting board. Spread out about 1/6 of the grits into a 3″ x 4″ rectangle in the middle of the leaf (the grits rectangle should be wider than it is tall). Don’t worry if the grits have become firm – they will spread easily. Sprinkle corn over, if using. Place 1/6 of the pork down the center, vertically. Carefully fold the banana leaf over so that the grits totally enclose the pork filling. Continue to fold closed so it forms a small rectangular packet and place in a small steamer basket. Repeat until you have used all the filling and leaves. Cover the basket.

Set the steamer basket over a pan of water and bring to a simmer. Steam for about eight minutes, until heated through. If you like, serve with the chile sauces.

Ersatz tamal with pork.

Avocado, orange, and onion salad

one bunch watercress, washed well and spun dry
one avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
one large orange, peeled and cut into supremes
about 1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rings, rinsed in cold water
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp water
pinch salt
juice of one lime
salt and pepper

Combine the vinegar and water. Soak the onion rings for at least ten minutes in the vinegar water.

Meanwhile, arrange the avocado and orange on the plate. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over all the avocado. Drain the onion rings and blot dry; add to the plate. Season with salt and the remaining lime juice. Top with the watercress.

Avocado, orange, onion salad

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Beef, Chiles, Pork Products

Christmas.

Those of you who connect with me through Facebook know that I spent a few days in Santa Fe recently. My husband and I flew out West to do some skiing – initially, we planned to ski Taos, but as it turns out, Taos is further from Santa Fe than we thought. The Santa Fe Ski Basin was just up the road from our lodgings, though, and with the recent snowfall, provided great skiing.

No trip to Santa Fe would be complete without eating as many chile dishes as possible. Indeed, chiles are ubiquitous throughout New Mexico, which even boasts its own chile varieties – New Mexico chiles, a variety of Anaheim chiles, which form the basis for much of the state’s cuisine. Although New Mexican cuisine share some similarities with Mexico’s Sonoran cuisine – burritos, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, huevos rancheros – when prepared in New Mexico, those dishes tend to feature New Mexico chiles. And they usually come with a ladle of chile sauce.

“Red or green?” is the question you’ll be asked when ordering many local specialties. Each sauce has its virtues – green is hot, bright, and vegetal, while red is richer and fruity. Think of the difference between a poblano and an ancho, or between a jalepeño and a chipotle. Greens usually are flame-roasted to shed the bitter, tough skins, then diced and stewed with pork, or with hominy, or pureed for sauce; reds are dried, and the dried pods ground to a powder for use in sauces, tamale masa, or stews. “Christmas” connotes the use of both red and green chile sauce.

We came back from Santa Fe with a variety of red chiles – Dixon Medium Hot (grown in Dixon, NM), Hatch Extra Hot (from Hatch, NM, where the famed Hatch chiles grow), and Native Nambé (an heirloom chile indigenous to the northern part of the state). The Dixon and Hatch are rich, sweet, and fruity – the Hatch somewhat more so – and the Nambé somewhat more earthy and spicy. To prepare dried red chiles, remove the stem, and the seeds, and grind the dried fruit to a powder in a spice grinder.

Clockwise from top: Dixon, Nambé, Hatch.

Preparing green chile here in Baltimore poses some questions of seasonality and authenticity. True New Mexico chiles are not generally available outside New Mexico, and the season for fresh green chiles is a few short months in the late summer. You can approximate the flavor, though, with widely-available Anaheim chiles, supplemented by a couple of jalepeños. Before using green chiles, blister the skins by holding the peppers (with tongs) over a gas flame; otherwise, roast them in a hot (450F/230C) oven until the skins blister and brown. Place the prepared chiles in a pan and cover them so the residual heat continues to steam the skins away from the chile flesh. Then peel them, and remove the seeds.

From left to right: Anaheim, Korean, Serrano.

Roasted and steamed, just before peeling.

Pork shoulder, green chile sauce

One of New Mexico’s archetypical dishes is green chile stew, featuring the roasted, peeled green chiles, onions, cubed pork, and seasonings. These flavors form the basis for this dish, whose influences stretch from Vermont (the four year-old extra sharp cheddar in the grits), through the South (the grits), to New Mexico (the pine nuts), and across the border into Mexico’s Yucatán province (the sour orange marinade for the pork).

Roast pork with sour orange mojo:

2 lb pork shoulder
juice of 4 sour oranges or 2 juice oranges and 2 limes
6 cloves garlic, smashed
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground achiote (annatto seed)
1 tsp salt

Green chile sauce:

1 lb Anaheim chiles, and a couple of hot green chiles like serrano or jalepeño, roasted, skinned, and seeded
1 large onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic confit
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
vegetable oil
2 c water or chicken stock [Note: water is good if you’re going to use the sauce for a vegetarian item; otherwise, meat stock lends more flavor]

Vermont cheddar grits:

4 c filtered water
1 tsp salt
1 c stone-ground yellow grits
2 ounces extra-sharp aged Cheddar, or similar (I used a four year-old XX sharp Cheddar from Dakin Farm in Vermont)
unsalted butter

Garniture:
Pine nuts, toasted
Flash-pickled red onion, diced 1/4″
Avocado slices
Cilantro leaves, washed and spun dry

At least three hours before cooking the pork, but as much as the night before, rub the pork shoulder with the salt. In a blender, combine the pork marinade ingredients except the salt. Place the pork in a nonreactive metal or glass bowl, pour the marinade ingredients over, and work well over the pork. Refrigerate, covered, 3 hours to overnight. Turn at least once if possible to redistribute the marinade. You also can place the whole thing in a zippered plastic bag.

Oven 400F/200C. Remove the meat from the marinade and brush off any excess; place the pork on a rack in a pan. Reserve the marinade in the refrigerator. Roast for 10 mins and then reduce the heat to 250F/120C. Roast for four hours. Remove and rest for 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the reserved marinade to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

While the pork roasts, prepare the green chile sauce. Roast, seed, and skin the peppers if you haven’t done so already, dice, and set aside. Place a saucepot over medium heat; when hot, add 1 tbsp oil. Bloom the coriander and oregano. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the garlic and onion and sweat until tender and translucent; then add the diced chile and sweat another 5 minutes. Add the stock or water and bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a vitaprep or blender and purée until very smooth. If using a conventional blender, remove the top from the lid and use a kitchen towel to cover the hole to allow steam to escape. Season with salt.

Prepare the grits cake. Bring 4 c of salted water to a rolling boil in a saucepot; whisk in the grits. With a wooden spoon, stir constantly for about three minutes; then cover and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Let the grits simmer and thicken for about 20 minutes, until thick and smooth. Stir in the aged Cheddar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a half sheet pan and cool. When firm, turn the cooled grits out onto a cutting board and score about 2″x3″.

To serve, set a skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add about 2 tbsp butter. Add the squares of grits cake and fry on each side, turning after several minutes when golden and crisp. Place a streak of green chile sauce on the plate and top with a grits cake; add slices or shreds of the roast pork tossed in the reduced marinade. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, diced pickled red onion, slices of avocado, and cilantro leaves.

Pork shoulder, green chile sauce, aged cheddar grits.

Short rib, red chile sauce

This dish has no analogue in traditional New Mexican cuisine, but the New Mexican red chiles bring the new Southwest to two meat and potatoes classics – short ribs and gnocchi. Don’t skip the celery salad – it adds a bright green vegetable note and a bit of crispness.

Short rib

3 lb short rib on the bone, cut in 2″x2″ cubes
2 each carrots, celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
bay leaves
6-8 thyme branches
peppercorns
1/4 c tomato paste
1 c red wine
2 c beef stock (chicken stock is ok too, as is unsalted chicken broth from a can or box)
salt and pepper

Red chile sauce:

6 tbsp mixed ground red chiles (I used a combination of Hatch, Dixon, and Nambé)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic confit
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
vegetable oil
2 c water or beef stock [Note: water is good if you’re going to use the sauce for a vegetarian item; otherwise, meat stock lends more flavor]

Half recipe gnochetti, sliced 1/4″ with bench scraper and prepared to the point of simmering
unsalted butter

Garniture:

Button mushrooms, sliced paper thin with benriner
Celery leaves, dressed in lemon juice and truffle oil

Prepare at least a day ahead if possible. First prepare the red chile sauce. Grind the peppers to powder if you haven’t done so already after removing the seeds and stems. Place a saucepot over medium heat; when hot, add 1 tbsp oil. Bloom the coriander and oregano. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the garlic and onion and sweat until tender and translucent; then add the ground chile and sauté another 1-2 minutes. Add the stock or water and bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a vitaprep or blender and purée until very smooth. If using a conventional blender, remove the top from the lid and use a kitchen towel to cover the hole to allow steam to escape. Season with salt.

Oven 180F/80C or 250F/120C (read on for an explanation). Season the beef on all sides. Brown in a little oil until well browned on all sides. Set aside and remove all but 1 tbsp oil from pan.

Sweat the vegetables in a heavy sauce pot with a lid. Add tomato paste and saute a minute. Add aromatics and wine; bring wine to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes. Add stock and return to simmer. Return beef and any juices to the pot. Cover with the pan’s lid or with a parchment lid, and place in oven. Braise 10 hours at 180F. For a faster short rib, braise at 250F 4 hours.

Remove pan from oven; remove short rib to cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, slice from bone and any stray connective tissue. Strain braising liquid through chinois into shallow pan (or a bain-marie, if you have one) to cool quickly. If you are preparing in advance, add the braising liquid to the short ribs to cover. Cover with foil and another pan, and weight with cans (such as tomatoes). Chill overnight or at least 8 hours. If you are preparing the same day, skim as much fat as you can from the braising liquid and proceed to the reducing step right away. As pictured, the short rib hasn’t been weighted and squared off as I prepared it the same day.

Remove cold fat layer from braising liquid and remove short ribs to a cutting board. Square off the ribs (save trim for another use, like a ragù). Return braising liquid to a pan and reduce over medium heat until glossy, smooth, and sauce-like. This step may take from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your volume of liquid, the size of your pan, and the heat of your stove. Cut meat from bone and trim to even size. Return to the reduction to warm through.

At serving time, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the gnocchetti and simmer until they float. Drain. You have two options at this point. For a very tender gnocchetti, toss with butter and season with salt and pepper. Otherwise, place a skillet over medium high heat and, when hot, add butter; fry the gnocchetti on both sides quickly. Season with salt and pepper. The fried gnocchi will be firmer.

To plate, place a streak of the red chile sauce on the plate and top with a square of the short rib and the gnocchetti. Garnish with the celery salad and mushrooms, and drizzle with the reduced braising liquid.

Braised short rib, red chile sauce, gnochetti.

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