Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pork Stew with Ancho Peppers, Carrots, Lime & Tomatoes

Adapted from a recipe by Tia Harrison on Food&
Serves 6 to 8  

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
4 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 large white onion, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 dried ancho chiles (see picture above), seeded and cut into thin strips with scissors
3 bay leaves
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of cayenne
8 cups chicken stock
1 pound carrots, peeled, sliced vertically in half, then sliced cross-wise into 2-inch pieces
6 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered length-wise, seeded and cored
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, plus more to taste, if you’d like
2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro leaves
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Set a very large cooking pot (either an enameled cast-iron casserole pot, or a large straight-sided cooking pot, but not a stock pot - as long as it is big enough to fit the stew, and wider than it is tall) over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetable oil and heat it until shimmering, about 2 minutes.  Working with about 1/3 or half the cubed pork at a time, blot it dry with paper towels, then season all sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Carefully add the seasoned pork to the oiled pan, and cook until browned all, turning every few minutes, about 10 minutes total.  Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the browned pork to a plate.  Repeat with the remaining pork.
Add the chopped onions to the pan, and stir to coat with the left-over oil, scraping the bottom of the pan to bring up any browned bits and pieces.  Season with salt and pepper and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until well-browned but not falling apart, about 10 minutes.  (I always find that adding a few tablespoons of water here or there, using it to scrape up any browned areas on the pan, and then letting it evaporate, helps onions brown deeply without burning.)  Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes longer, stirring frequently.  Add the sliced anchos, bay leaves, cloves and cayenne and stir to combine.  Add the chicken stock, and return the browned pork to the pot.
Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid, then reduce the heat to maintain the barest of simmers.  Lifting the lid to check the stew frequently, gently simmer until the pork is incredibly tender, about 3 hours.  Also, throughout the cooking time, it is wise to skim off with a spoon or ladle, any fat or frothy impurities that collects at the top of the stew.  Do this before each time you stir.
While the pork is cooking, cook the carrots:  Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil.  Add the sliced carrots and boil until just tender, between 4 and 7 minutes.  Drain immediately, then spread over a parchment covered baking pan to cool.  Reserve.
When the pork is thoroughly tender, strain the solids from the liquids with a colander, collecting the liquids in a large measuring cup or pitcher.  Set aside the solids.  Allow the liquid to rest a few minutes, then use a spoon to collect any liquid fat that rises to the top and discard it.  (For easiest collection of the fat, it is best if the container holding the strained liquids is taller and more narrow than the cooking pot, and also clear.)
Return the liquid to the cooking pot and simmer until it is reduced to a good flavor and consistency.  (The time for this can vary greatly.)  When a deep flavor and velvety texture is achieved, add the strained solids back to the simmering liquid, along with the sliced tomatoes and stir to combine.  Cover the pot and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes longer.  The tomatoes will break down a bit and disappear into the sauce, but that’s okay.
Add the lime juice and cilantro to the nearly done stew and stir to combine.  Taste, then season as needed with salt and pepper, and perhaps more lime juice.  Add the cooked carrots to the stew and stir gently to combine.
The stew can be made a couple days ahead, then reheated over a low flame.  Stir frequently while reheating.
Serve hot, spooned over rice, garnished with pickled jalapeños.