Ever since moving to our new house, I’ve been doing even more cooking than I used to in San Francisco. While I cooked frequently in our old apartment, we also relied more steadily on takeout since there were so many incredible options right outside our front door (which I miss desperately!). Here in Oakland, on the other hand, we’d actually have to get in the car and drive somewhere to grab takeout (and I avoid the car as much as I can). So, for better or worse, this fancy kitchen has been getting a workout. Not only that, but the girls are becoming regulars at the grocery store. Abby has graduated from sitting in the cart to walking around the store with me and she enjoys assisting me by picking out lemons, limes, bell peppers, as well as all the things she’s not supposed to grab. Luckily enough for me, she loves being my little helper and takes her job very seriously. She’s even been perfecting her (butter) knife skills at home…
So for my next culinary adventure, I’ll be making something that I’ve made quite a few times before, but it’s a recipe I just had to share (and you’ll quickly learn that I’m drawn to all things spicy and delicious). If your family loves Mexican cuisine as much as mine does, you’ll appreciate the authentic, delicious flavors in this incredible recipe. It’s fairly simple yet it has a huge impact on your taste buds. Pair it with the freshest tortillas you can find and you can’t go wrong. This time around, I’ll also be making fresh pico de gallo and a corn salsa…pictures to come.
Chile Verde (Tomatillo Braised Pork Loin) from a cookbook written by the amazing Rick Bayless
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rich-tasting pork lard or olive or vegetable oil
(I always use one of the two latter options but I image the pork lard would be extra indulgent!)
- One 2-lb boneless pork loin roast
(I tend to buy 2 lbs of the best looking pork loin meat and ask the butcher to cut it up into “stew size” chunks for me – I find it faster and easier to brown)
- 1 lb. (10-12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
(I find the best tomatillos at Whole Foods – Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry them and Safeway has pathetic, sad looking tomatillos…at least the Safeway’s I’ve been to)
- Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 serranos or 1 jalapeno – I use all 4!), stemmed
- 1 medium white onion, sliced
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
- 10 small (about 1 1/4 lbs total) red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
(in my opinion, these are optional…they don’t make or break the dish…Travis prefers it when I leave them out)
1. Browning the Pork. In a medium (4-5 quart) Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the lard or oil over medium. When quite hot, lay in the pork loin. Brown well on both sides. Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the pork to a plate; set the Dutch oven or pot aside to use for the sauce.
2. The Sauce. Roast the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast on the other side – 4 to 5 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatillos and chiles that are soft and cooked through. Cool, then transfer everything to a food processor or blender, being careful to scrape up all the delicious juice that has run out onto the baking sheet. Process until smoothly pureed.
Set the pork-browning pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook a minute longer. Raise the heat to medium-high, and, when the oil is really sizzling, add the tomatillo puree all at once. Stir until noticeably darker and very thick, 3-4 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and the cilantro. Taste and season with salt, usually 1 teaspoon (though I never put any salt in – I don’t think it’s necessary). Stir everything thoroughly.
3. Braising the Pork. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Nestle the browned pork into the warm sauce, cover the pot and set in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, if you intend to incorporate the potatoes, simmer them in heavily salted water to cover until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
When the pork has cooked for 30 minutes, nestle the cooked potatoes into the sauce around the meat, re-cover and cook until the pork registers about 145 degrees on a meat thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes longer. The meat will feel rather firm (not hard) to the touch and cutting into the center will reveal only the slightest hint of pink.
4. Serving the Dish. Spoon the mixture of meat, sauce, and potatoes onto a plate and accompany with tortillas (that’s what we do!). You can add cheese, sour cream, or whatever your heart desires, but I’m a simpleton and the flavors of the dish alone are enough to satisfy me!
Check out the side dishes to our feast as well…it always helps to have a helpful assistant and a cute baby with one shoe walking around as well!
Working Ahead :: The pork can be browned and the sauce made a day ahead; refrigerate separately, well covered, until a couple of hours before you’re ready to braise the pork. The meat will have the best texture if braised just before serving, though it will hold fine in a very low oven for about a half hour if you slightly under-cook the pork – it’ll finish cooking as it sits.
A 7x7xMommy Note :: I’ve been making this dish for a while now and my Mom has been making it long before me. We both have these incredible clay pots that we use for most of our cooking (or at least it feels that way because I clean it a few times a week!). Check these guys out here :: Bram Vulcania 5 Quart Round Pot. Just looking at their site makes me want one of everything!
Anyway, my Mom and I both recommend to cook a dish like Chile Verde this (or Chicken Curry) early in the day and then put it in the oven for the whole day cooking it low and slow. The meat will literally fall apart and will be so incredibly moist and delish. I tend to cook when the girls are both napping (around 1pm) so by the time we get to eat at dinner, all the flavors have mingled together and your house smells incredible.
Until next time,