Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "Top 2" Pork My Father-in-Law Has Ever Tasted

Okay, boys and girls (well, mostly girls), this recipe is long, but I think it's highly worthwhile to post because if even one of you ever makes it, I will consider my efforts here to have been a success. Not to sound too boastful (because I really was just following a recipe), but this stuff is fantastic. It melts in your mouth. And, what's so beautiful? I made the sauce on Thursday night and let it cool while I cut the fat off of the 7.7 lb ($11!!!) pork shoulder, and then put both in the fridge. Friday morning, I put them all in the crock pot and came home Friday night to a lip-smackingly delightful meal.

This is a recipe for Carne Adobada with Red Chile.

Serves 4

4 ounces dried red chiles (see Note)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
One (6-lb) pork shoulder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Break the chiles into pieces and shake out most of the seeds; discard the stems and seeds and rinse the chiles in warm water. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and, working in batches, add the chiles. Toast, turning the chiles frequently, for about 5 minutes, until blackened in spots. Transfer the chiles to a blender. Add the garlic and onion to the skillet and cook, turning frequently, for about 5 minutes, until blackened in spots. Add to the blender, along with 2 cups water, the oregano, honey, and 2 teaspoons salt. Blend to a very smooth puree. Set aside.

Trim the excess fat from the pork (including the thick layer of fat and skin on the underside). If it looks like the shoulder won't fit in your slow cooker whole, cut off a hunk or two so that you'll be able to nestle the pieces snugly in the cooker insert. Score the meat about 1/2 inch deep in several places with sharp knife and season the meat all over with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat and add the pork. Cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Using tongs, transfer the pork into a 4-quart slow cooker. Return the skillet to the heat and pour in 1/2 cup water, scraping up the browned bits with a spatula. Pour the water over the pork in the cooker, then pour in the chile puree.

Cook, covered, on the low setting for 6 to 8 hours, until the pork is very tender. During the last hour of cooking time, remove the lid and turn the cooker on high. Using tongs, remove the pork to a cutting board. Cut the meat into large chunk and discard the bones. Skim off some of the fat that's risen to the surface of the sauce. If it's still too liquidy -- it should be a good bit runnier than the original uncooked chile puree -- use an immersion blender to further puree and thicken the chile; blending also serves to emulsify the fat in the sauce so that it's velvety smooth. (If using a regular blender, ladle some of the sauce into the blender, let it cool, then blend, starting on the lowest possible speed, until smooth and thick; scrape the sauce back into the cooker.) Season to taste with salt if necessary. Return the meat to the sauce and cook, covered, until heated through. Serve the meat hot, with plenty of chile sauce.

Note: In the absence of true New Mexico chiles, I use a combination of wrinkly, dark, almost black mulatos, smooth, deep red guajillos, and a few small arbol chiles for extra heat. If your chile puree tastes unbearably hot before it's been cooked, don't worry: A day in the slow cooker will take care of that. You might even need to add some pure chile powder at the end to spice it up a bit.

And now for the Molly notes:
This sauce WAS "unbearably hot" when I put it on the pork. In fact, next time I make it, I will probably wear one of those little paper breathing masks because the pungent smell of the chiles while I was toasting and blending them sent me into a coughing fit. It was still really hot when I sampled it when I got home from work, so I decided to serve it with homemade tortillas and lots of cheddar cheese ... and hope our guests liked spicy food (they did!). It seemed to mellow a lot in the last hour of cooking on high with the lid off. It also seemed to mellow overnight. We had it for lunch on Sunday with eggs in burritos... the sauce was really tasty on eggs.

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