Spicy Asian Pork Meatballs with Cucumber Salad

My dear wife told me that we had some ground pork that needed to be used. She was willing to make pork-something for dinner, but lacked the inspiration to decide exactly what to make.

I was otherwise occupied and didn’t have the time to cook, but I could spare a couple of minutes on the interwebs to find a recipe. I pulled up these two great recipes from the National Pork Board that looked tasty, showed them to her, and off she went.

I love it when a meal comes together.

1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a medium lidded bowl, toss all the veggies together. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, salt, and red pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the veggies, seal the bowl, give it a shake, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

1 pound Ground Pork
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic chili paste
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced

Mix together all ingredients and form into small meatballs. Fry the meatballs in a 10-to-12-inch skillet over medium heat. Fry for 3-5 minutes or until browned and crisp. Turn and cook the undersides for another 3-5 minutes more, about 6-10 minutes total or until an instant read thermometer reads 160°F. Transfer to a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

Serve the meatballs over some steamed rice with the salad on the side. Drizzle the whole works with a little sweet chili sauce or Sriracha to spice it up a bit if desired.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Quick, tasty, and healthy – what’s not to love. The pork meatballs were rich and just packed with flavor. The sweet and tangy salad set them off nicely.

The original recipe called for making the pork into burgers to be grilled and served on buns. Add a little Sriracha mayo to it and I think that that would also be a tasty way to go.

The Nutrition:
Makes 4 servings at about 300 calories and 7 points per serving without the rice.

One year ago – Cottage Bacon
Two years ago – Habanero Hot Sauce

Country-Style Ribs

I had this dish at a little hole-in-the-wall resort while on vacation up north and was very impressed. It was advertised as ribs, but came out as a huge pile of meat covered in sauce. I was afraid it would be the usual sickly-sweet, mushy mess you get off of a Sysco truck, but it turned out to be country-style ribs that had been smoked long enough to develop a nice bark, and then braised in a thin barbecue sauce until the meat just started to fall apart.

It was so good that I had to try to make it myself. I haven’t had the best luck in the past with true country-style ribs that are cut from the sirloin or rib end of the pork loin and can be a little gristly. So I went the do-it-yourself way and cut down a boned pork shoulder roast (AKA Boston Butt) into 1-inch slabs.

6 pounds country-style ribs
1 (16-ounce) bottle barbecue sauce (Sticky Hog in this case)
1 (12-ounce) bottle hard cider
1 tablespoon barbecue rub per pound of meat (Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust in this case)

Season the ribs heavily on all sides with rub. Cover and stash in the fridge until the grill is ready.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 250°F. On the Big Green Egg I didn’t use a plate setter to diffuse the heat, but did use an extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the heat.

Add your smoking wood (apple, in this case) to the grill and when the grill reaches 250°F and the smoke has turned blue, arrange the ribs on the cooking grate. Close the lid and let them cook, flipping every hour, until they reach 160°F internal (about 3 hours).

While the ribs are smoking, combine the barbecue sauce and cider in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the foaming has stopped and the sauce thickens up a little bit. Remove from the heat and reserve for later.

When the ribs hit 160°F internal, move them off to a flame-proof pan (I used the base of my tagine) and cover with half of the sauce. Turn ribs to coat and move the pan full of ribs back to the grill. Close the lid and let cook for an hour.

Check the ribs for doneness – they should be around 190°F internal and the meat should fall apart when you poke at it with a fork. If they are done, remove the pan full of ribs from the grill and let them rest for 15 minutes before serving. If they are not done, add more sauce as needed and return them to the grill until they are done. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆
I really liked the taste of these ribs. Thinning the sauce with the cider let it soak into the meat while cutting the sweetness and giving it some great apple flavor.

I was not at all happy with the tenderness of the meat. It had some nice bark, and had started to fall apart, but it had also lost a lot of moisture and gotten pretty tough. I was looking for more of a baby-back-ribs-meet-pulled-pork texture. Next time I think I’d wrap them in a couple of layers of foil rather than letting them sit uncovered in a pan.

The Nutrition
Three ounces of rib meat is 387 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points. Ouch! Obviously a special occasion treat.

One year ago – Chicken & Veggies
Two years ago – Sriracha Chili Sauce

Balsamic Baby Back Ribs

I love it when cooking becomes a social, innovative, iterative process. There are few things in life more boring for me than looking over a recipe that’s just a bunch of steps – no pics, no descriptions, no exposition, no tips, no love. Yech.

Now this rib recipe has got some history to it. I first came across it as Balsamic Pork Belly from She Cooks… He Cleans and it looked wonderful (and it comes with musical suggestions, gotta love that). They adapted it from Ian Knauer’s Sticky Balsamic Ribs over at FOOD52, also a tasty-looking recipe that Ian says, “These ribs just might be the best thing I’ve ever come up with.” High praise indeed.

So I’ve got two terrific recipes for two different cuts of meat, using two very different cooking styles, but with the same marinade and glaze. Oh man, this is going to be fun!

The Marinade
2 racks baby back pork ribs, about 5 pounds
4 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons packed raw or brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 cup water

Combine the garlic and salt in a blender or food processor and give it a whirl until the garlic is minced. Add the pepper, rosemary, sugar, vinegar, oil, cayenne, and water and pulse to combine.

Prep the ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and trimming off any scrapes of meat or excess fat. Put the ribs into a zip-top bag. Pour the marinade over the ribs, turning to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and stash in the fridge overnight.

The Cook
Remove the ribs from the marinade. Lay them out on a sheet pan and dust with some sea or kosher salt and black pepper. Return to the fridge, uncovered, while you set up the grill.

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at between 225 to 250°F. On the Big Green Egg that meant filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat and a drip pan with a little water in it to catch the fat.

When the grill is up to temp, add your smoking wood (a chunk of apple in this case) and wait for the smoke to go from white (bad) to blue (good). Remove the ribs from the sheet pan and set on the grate bone side down and centered over the drip pan.

Close the lid and let the ribs cook for an hour. Flip bone side up and cook for another hour. After the ribs have been on for 2 hours, remove them from the heat, wrap them tightly in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and return them to the grill bone side up for an hour.

After an hour, carefully unwrap ribs, making sure not to lose any of the drippings that have collected in the foil. Return the ribs to the grill bone side down while you make the glaze.

The Glaze
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup water
Reserved drippings from foil

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and water, and drippings in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced to a thick and syrupy glaze, about 5 minutes. Watch this like a hawk because the once it starts to thicken the glaze can easily burn. Set aside, but keep warm.

Return to the grill and check on the ribs. Ribs are done when the meat hits 165°F internal, but they aren’t tender enough to eat until they hit about 185°F and the surface cracks when you lift up on one end of the slab or the meat starts to tear apart when you pull on one of the bones. When the ribs get to that point it’s time to sauce.

Brush the glaze on both side of the ribs and let them cook for another 10 minutes. Glaze both sides again and cook another 10 minutes. Brush ribs one last time with more glaze, remove the from the grill,  and serve remaining glaze on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
To badly misquote Zaphod Beeblebrox  from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “If I told you how good these ribs are, I wouldn’t have time to eat them.”

Yes, they were that good – sweet and tangy with good smoke and enough heat from the cayenne and porky goodness from the drippings to tie everything together. They reminded me of the Minimalist Ribs I did where there are so few ingredients that every one of them gets to shine.

The Nutrition:
A four bone serving is 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points.

ONE YEAR AGO – Asian Pork Skewers

TWO YEARS AGO – Carnitas with Pickled Onions

 

1st Carnitas of the Year

It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve made up a batch of carnitas. I do love those melty bits of tender pigginess, and they really don’t take that long to make, so I have no excuse for this being the 1st batch of 2012.

I usually make a double batch of carnitas using two pork shoulder roasts (Boston Butt), but I had some really good results last year by switching to a single batch made in my Emile Henry Dutch oven. It just seemed to cook more evenly and had a better ratio of crispy bits to tender chunks.

8 pounds pork shoulder roast
Juice of 3 oranges (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon achiote oil

Set your grill up for a 5 hour cook over indirect heat at 350°F. On the Big Green Egg I used an inverted plate setter with a trivet on it to diffuse the heat and keep the bottom from burning.

While the grill is getting up to temp, cut the roast into 3 to 4-inch chunks, discarding any stringy connective tissue, but keeping all of the fat.

Combine all of the ingredients in a Dutch oven, and stir to combine. Cover the oven with a lid and set it on the grill. Let it simmer for an hour. The orange juice should be bubbly and the fat in the meat should have started to break down.

After the fat has started to render, you need to reduce the liquid and crisp up the meat. Remove the lid and let it simmer for another hour. Keep checking and stirring once an hour until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork has started to fry in its own fat (about 3 hours total).

Start checking the meat every 15 minutes to make sure the meat is getting crispy, but not becoming dry or burned. Total cook time for this batch was just over 4 hours.

Of course, you need a proper beverage to go with carnitas. My dear wife’s Sangria fit the bill nicely – cool and refreshing and it really complimented the richness of the carnitas.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Oh my, these were gooooooood – crispy and tender and juicy. I’m finding that the more I pare back the ingredient list, the better this dish becomes. Not that this dish needs any more added fat, but the achiote oil added a nice, round earthiness. I might go with lime and orange juice next time to add a little more citrus bite.

The Nutrition:
Carnitas will never be diet food. Four ounces is 5 Weight Watchers Points and 190 calories, so use it sparingly.

ONE YEAR AGO – Belizean Grilled Shrimp

TWO YEARS AGO – Fajitas

 

Have Ribs, Will Travel

barbecued baby back ribs

I recently had the opportunity to cook up a mess of barbecued baby back ribs for some friends. The only kicker was that we were to bring them over to their place. No problem.

The ribs need to be almost fully cooked, travel for 30 minutes, and finish cooking in our friend’s oven. Since I wanted to make sure there were leftovers for everyone, I figured on one rack of baby backs per adult, so 5 racks total.

The first thing I did was rub the racks heavily with my General Purpose Rub v1.5. Then I set the Big Green Egg up for an indirect cook at 250°F

baby back ribs

When the Egg was up to temp, I added both a plate setter and a drip pan to diffuse the heat and keep the ends of the racks from burning. I added a little hickory wood for smoke and when it burned clean I loaded up the ribs.

This is more ribs than I’ve ever tried on the Egg, and an inverted roasting rack really came in handy to keep the ribs from crowding each other so they’d cook as evenly as possible.

barbecued baby back ribs

I let the ribs cook for an hour and then flipped the racks end for end. I let them go another hour and then rotated the whole roasting rack 180°. I let them go an hour and a half undisturbed, then moved them out of the rack and onto the grate and sauced them.

Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce v2.0
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate or  pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons General Purpose Rub v1.5

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes).

barbecue sauce

I sauced the racks fairly heavily and let them cook for another 30 minutes. I then sauced them one more time and moved them to a large baking pan. I sealed the pan up with 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil and we hit the road.

Once at our friend’s house, the ribs went into a 350°F oven for an hour.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I have to say that I am really liking General Purpose Rub v1.5. It’s got a lot of flavor, a bit of heat, some herbiness, and it all works well together. The Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce v2.0 is also a winner, with all the goodness of the rub plus a tangy, almost fruity, sweetness.

The ribs? They were tasty, but they were big baby backs (average 2 1/2 pounds per rack) and I overestimated how much they would cook in the foil while being transported. They ended up good, but chewier than I would have liked. On the plus side, a rack per adult was way too much food, so we all enjoyed leftovers.

The Nutrition
Ribs never will be diet food. A four bone serving is 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points with the rub and the sauce.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Corned Beef Hash

TWO YEARS AGO – Tri-tip Roast

 

Chicken & Chorizo Fajitas

It was 74°F Saturday and today it’s spitting snow!?! Go figure. It’s been one crazy spring, but never let it be said that I am one to waste a chance to grill and eat outside. So before Mother Nature had a chance to change her mind, I whipped up a quick batch of fajitas while it was still nice out.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken pieces (I used tenders, but breasts or thighs work great, too)
8 ounces Mexican chorizo
3 bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 yellow onion, sliced into strips
4 cloves garlic (chopped to go in the veggies)
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
3 cloves garlic (whole for the marinade)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon worcestershire or soy sauce
2 tablespoons achiote oil (or 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon paprika)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded

Toss lime juice, 3 cloves of the garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, worcestershire, oil, and jalapeño into the food processor and blend to combine.

Put the bell pepper, onion and chopped garlic in zip-top bag and cover with half the marinade.  Do the same with the chicken. Stash both in the fridge while you get the grill fired up.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high heat (450°F). You can use a grilling basket or pan to cook the meat and veggies, but I like using a cast iron griddle.

Set the griddle on the grate and let it heat up for about 15 minutes.

Fry the chorizo on the griddle. I rolled the meat up into little balls, but you could also break it up. When it’s browned, move the meat off to a warm plate.

Put the chicken on the griddle and cook until until browned on both sides and cooked through, about three to five minutes per side. Remove from the griddle and put with the chorizo.

Put the veggies on the griddle. Cook, stirring often, until they are soft and nicely browned, about 5 to 10 minutes.

When the veggies are done, add back in the chorizo and chicken. Stir and cook until just warmed through, about 2 minutes.

Move the whole works off to a serving platter. Serve with warm tortillas and some guacamole or sour cream.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
Lightly charred veggies, tender meat, and just the right amount of heat from the marinade came together to make this a very tasty dish. It’s similar to, but not as greasy as, the parrillada platter at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. The only thing that would have made this better would have been to crumble the chorizo and fry it loosely so it would be distributed throughout the dish.

The Nutrition
Two fajitas with corn tortillas are 361 calories and 9 Weight Watchers points, so if you go easy on the sour cream this is a very healthy, veggie-packed meal.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Lemon Pepper Chicken

TWO YEARS AGO – Spring Sirloin & Asparagus

 

Sweet Chili Barbecued Pork

What makes for a good, all-around barbecue seasoning?

For me, it’s a mix of herbs and spices that gives you a layered, well rounded flavor with enough heat to make it interesting, and enough tangy sweetness to balance the rich flavor of the meat without overwhelming it.

I’ve had a lot of fun creating my own barbecue sauces. After playing with sweet chili sauce in my Thai Sweet Chili Spareribs recipe, I wanted to try a recipe that uses traditional barbecue spices but uses sweet chili sauce for the tang and sweetness.

2 pounds pork country-style ribs
1 tablespoon barbecue rub (Penzys Barbecue of the Americas, this time)
1 cup sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy is good and ubiquitous, but The Ginger People’s Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce rocks if you can find it), divided

Combine the rub with a 1/4 cup of the chili sauce. Put the ribs in a zip-top bag. Pour the sauce over the ribs, turning to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and stash in the fridge overnight.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at 300°F. I used the inverted plate setter on the Big Green Egg and a drip pan filled with water to diffuse the heat. Add your smoking wood (apple, in this case) and when the grill reaches temp and the smoke has turned blue, arrange the ribs over the drip pan. Close the lid and let them cook, flipping every hour, until they reach 160°F internal (about 3 hours).

Lay down a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and move the ribs to the center of the sheet. Pour 1/4 cup of the chili sauce over the ribs. Fold the foil over the ribs and crimp tightly. Move the foiled ribs back to the grill and cook for another hour.

After an hour, carefully pull back the foil and check to see if the ribs are done. Their internal temp should be around 190°F and the meat should fall apart when you poke at it with a fork. If they are done, remove the foiled pack of ribs from the grill and let them rest for 15 minutes before slicing. If they’re not done, reseal and return them to the grill until they are.

I thinly sliced the rib meat and served it over rice with the remainder of the chili sauce on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆
The combination of barbecue spices and sweet chili sauce is a real winner. The chili sauce just melts into the ribs and pulls all those lovely herbs and spices with it. As far as cuisine, it could really go either way – served over rice it was a great Asain-ish dish, but it would have gone just as well with baked beans and coleslaw. The next step is to build a  barbecue sauce using sweet chili sauce as the base.

Sadly, the pack of “boneless” country ribs I picked up looked a whole lot better in the store than they did on the grill. They were certainly not boneless, and had a bunch of nasty cartilage. What meat there was was very tender and tasted great,  there just wasn’t a whole lot of it.

The Nutrition
Three ounces of meat is 387 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points, so this is best in a meat-in-a-minor key recipe. A few flavorful slices over a veggie-laden rice pilaf makes a great meal.

ONE YEAR AGO –  Oven-Baked Oatmeal

TWO YEARS AGO – Suck Creek Thighs & Corn Pudding

 

Longaniza Sausage

One of the great joys in traveling is getting the chance to try out new foods. In Vieques, we rented a place with a kitchen so that we could hit the markets and do some of our own cooking with local ingredients.

Puerto Rico has a pretty unique cuisine. The Taíno Indians, Spanish, Africans, and Americans all brought foods to the modern Puerto Rican table. So you get yuca and plantains happily coexisting with pineapples and chicharones.

I got excited when we drove by an outdoor fruit market and they had a big sign out front advertising longaniza sausage. We wandered the market for a good 15 minutes, picking out some fresh pineapples and papayas, but couldn’t find the sausages. I finally asked somebody and they pointed to what looked like a trailer truck full of tires. I walked over and, sure enough, there were two freezers full of sausage tucked behind the Uniroyals.

I got a couple of pounds of links, and when we checked out the cashier assured me that they made it themselves and that it was very good.

That night I slapped them on the grill along with some pineapple. The minute they hit the grate you could smell the garlic :). I cooked them over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until they were well browned, but still juicy.

I served them with some tostones and the grilled pineapple spears.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I’d never had longaniza before so I really didn’t know what to expect. They tasted like a cross between a garlicky brat and Spanish chorizo. Not too spicy, but with a little kick of paprika and the earthy flavors of achiote. They had a coarse grind that looked to be a combination of ground pork and some larger chunks of cured ham. They were wonderful for dinner and then later chopped up into some eggs for breakfast.

The Nutrition
Again, what happens on vacation stays on vacation.

ONE YEAR AGO – Corned Beef

TWO YEARS AGO – Spring is in the Air

 

Thai Sweet Chili Spareribs

I’ve had a big rib craving lately, and fortunately for me, somebody decided to play football on Sunday so I had all the excuse I needed to make up a batch. I planned to go with a Kansas City-style sauce, but Asian flavors kept calling me and I just couldn’t say no to the brand-new bottle of sweet chili sauce sitting in the pantry.

1 rack pork spare ribs, trimmed and membrane removed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried cilantro (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The night before the big game, combine all of the herbs and spices in a shaker-top container (I used an empty Penzeys spice jar) and shake well to combine. Lay the ribs out on a baking sheet and coat heavily with the rub, working it in on both sides. This recipe should make just enough for one rack of ribs, so use it all up.

Cover the ribs with some cling wrap and stash in the fridge until just before you fire up the grill.

Thai Barbeque Sauce
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce (Premier is gluten free)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce
1 bunch – cilantro
3 green onions, sliced to fit in food processor
1 to 3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

I like to make my sauces up the night before to give all the flavors time to develop. For this one – put the garlic, green onions, and cilantro in a food processor and pulse until minced. Add the chili sauce, hoisin, vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil and blend until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour into a covered container and store in the fridge overnight.

Plan on a 5 to 6 hour cook on game day. You want the ribs over indirect heat at 300°F.  I filled up the firebox on my Big Green Egg, lit it, and once it was up to temp added some hickory wood for smoke. I used an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat and a pan with some water in it to catch the drippings.

Cook the ribs for 3 hours at 300°F, flipping every 30 minutes.

Sauce the ribs on both sides and then wrap in two layers of heavy-duty foil or arrange them in a flame-proof 9×13 jelly roll pan and cover tightly with foil. Return the ribs to the grill and cook for another hour.

Carefully pull back the foil and check to see how done the ribs are. If the meat has started pulling back from the bone, they are ready to come out of the foil. If not, seal them back up and check again in 30 minutes. Repeat as needed.

When the ribs are ready, move them out of the foil and back onto the grill. Sauce both sides and cook for 20 minutes. Now check for doneness – the meat should have pulled well back on the bones and tugging on a bone should show that it’s ready to come apart. If the ribs are done, sauce them again and put them back on for another 10 minutes. Sauce them one more time and take them off the heat.

Let them rest for 10 minutes, then cut them along the bone into individual ribs and serve with more of the barbecue sauce, or plain sweet chili sauce, on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow! Just the smell of the rub alone was enough to win me over. By the time they were smoked and sauced these ribs were outstanding – lots of sweetness, but also a nice amount of heat and umami by the ton. This recipe will be making a repeat appearance very, very soon.

The Nutrition
A four bone serving is 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points, so skip the half-time show and run some laps, because these ribs are worth it.

ONE YEAR AGO – The Agony of Defeat

TWO YEARS AGO – Early Valentine’s Day – Steak & Crab

 

Chili Verde

Despite our lack of snow, winter is here and I’ve wanted to make a hearty stew. I showed this Chile Verde recipe from Simple Recipes to my dear wife, and the next thing I knew we were on our way to our favorite mercado to pick up the ingredients.

2 pounds tomatillos
1 head garlic, whole
2 jalapenos
1 bunch cilantro leaves
5 pounds pork shoulder (aka pork butt)
2 large white onion
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chiles
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

This recipe boosts the flavor and adds some smoky goodness to the dish by fire-roasting all of the veggies first, so set your grill up for a direct cook at 500°F. While it is getting up to temp, prep the veggies by husking the tomatillos and cutting the onion in half, leaving the root end and skin on.

Put the tomatillos, onions, and jalapenos directly on the grill. They will cook at different rates, so use a pair of tongs to keep everything moving. Start the onions cut side down and flip when they get some nice grill marks, about 3 minutes. Let them finish cooking skin side down so they kind of roast in their own juices. Turn the tomatillos and peppers often so that they pick up a nice char. Remove the peppers when the skin is mostly blistered. Pull the tomatillos and onions when they start to soften. Put the garlic on just as you’re taking the smaller tomatillos off and cook for just a couple of minutes until the papery skin starts to char.

Once the veggies are done, you can move inside to the oven or set up the grill for an indirect cook. I opted for the “more fire = good” option and set the Big Green Egg up for a 350°F cook using the plate setter and a trivet to diffuse the heat.

While waiting for the veggies to get cool enough to handle, trim the excess fat from the pork butt and cut the meat into 2-inch chunks.

Load the meat into a large, oiled Dutch oven and season with a little salt and pepper. Move the uncovered Dutch oven to the grill and let the pork cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until the meat is browned and most of the fat has rendered out, about 2 hours.

While the meat is cooking, peel the garlic, skin and quarter the onions, and skin and seed the peppers. Load all the roasted veggies, cilantro, and half the chicken stock into the food processor for a whirl.

Pulse all of the ingredients until they are finely chopped and start to form a smooth sauce. Add more chicken stock if needed.

Once the pork is nicely browned and rendered, pour off all but a couple tablespoons of fat from the Dutch oven. Pour the verde sauce over the pork and add the cumin, green chiles, oregano, chile powder, and the rest of the chicken stock. Stir to combine. Add just enough water (about a cup) so that the meat is just floating in the sauce.

Put the lid on the Dutch oven, close the grill, and let everything simmer together for an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes. 

Add another cup of water to the Dutch oven and let it cook, uncovered, until the pork is falling apart and the chili has reduced to a thick stew (about 1 hour). Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and a maybe a little more chile powder.

Served as a stew with tortilla chips on the side. It’s also great with rice and beans (with plenty of corn toritilas for chasing the sauce) or cook it until it’s a little thicker for taco filling.

The Verdict: ★★★★½ This thick, meaty stew was wonderful. I left just enough fat in the pan so that the sauce was luscious and rich. The pork and cumin provided a meaty base while the peppers and the tomatillos added a nice green heat at the top.

The original recipes included some anaheim or poblano chiles, and I would add those next time to give the dish a little more “middle” heat.

The Nutrition: Lusciousness comes at a price – 439 calories per 2-cup serving and 11 Weight Watchers points. Drain off more of the oil and serve it over sauteed bell peppers and onions to make it a little healthier.

ONE YEAR AGO – STICKY HOG BARBECUE SAUCE
TWO YEARS AGO – COUNTRY-STYLE RIBS