Ah, the best laid plans! After being away from home for two weeks, resuming the routine can be a bit tricky. I chose simple recipes for our dinners, as we did not have much of a chance to catch our breath. We landed around noon on a Sunday, and went back to work early next day. One simple dinner would be a pork chili made in the slow-cooker. It is so convenient to arrive back from work to a dinner waiting for you. So, I set the ingredients at lunch time, and worked the whole afternoon with that feeling of accomplishment and anticipation on the back of my mind. But fate had other plans for us. It turns out that the electricity company stopped by to install a new meter in our backyard, and shut the power off for a little while. We saw them arriving just as we drove away, but did not think much about it. When I arrived home for dinner, the crock pot was off. The meat had stayed inside for 6 long hours, at room temperature. It all went to the trash, even if part of me wanted to cook the heck out of it in a pressure cooker. I decided safe is better than sorry. We ordered pizza instead. But, undeterred, I bought another piece of meat that same evening, and made this chili next day. It was totally worth it! I advise you to make it, and if you don’t have a slow-cooker, just use your oven low and slow.
NEW MEXICO PORK CHILE
(inspired by America’s Test Kitchen)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoons New Mexico chili powder
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup strong brewed coffee
2 teaspoons instant tapioca
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 to 3 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs
Salt and pepper to taste
fresh cilantro leaves, minced
zest and juice of half a lime
Lightly spray inside of slow cooker with vegetable oil spray. In a small saucepan, heat the tomato paste, New Mexico chili, oil, and garlic powder until fragrant. Add chicken stock, coffee, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Warm it all together for a minute or so, transfer to slow-cooker. Sprinkle the tapioca, mix to combine.
Season the meat all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the slow cooker, the liquid does not need to cover the meat, just make sure to spoon some of it over the top. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours on low. Half an hour before serving, use a fork to cut the very tender meat in chunks, and mix with the sauce. Leave it for 30 minutes, then add cilantro, lime zest and juice right before serving.
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Comments: Most recipes for this type of chili recommend using pork shoulder or butt, cuts with a lot of fat in them. You can definitely use either, but the drawback is that cutting the meat into chunks is a bit of a pain. I never think it’s going to be a big deal once I grab the huge bag and place in my grocery cart, but then, the moment I open it and realize the task ahead, a sort of sadness invades me. Followed by the Keep Calm and Carry On stance. America’s Test Kitchen hit gold when they changed the game by using boneless, country-style pork ribs. They are equally marbled with fat, and all the work involved is ripping the plastic cover of the grocery tray. I was a bit skeptical because my experience with this type of meat was less than stellar. More often than not, I ended up with meat a bit dried up and with an odd texture. Not the case. These were melt-in-your-mouth tender, very moist and flavorful. Just the right amount of heat for our taste. The quick cooking tapioca thickens the sauce ever so slightly, but I used a lot less than called for in most recipes. You could omit it, if you don’t mind a bit of a watery sauce.
Phil enjoyed the chili over white rice and some Ranch style beans, I opted for cauli-rice and half an avocado, with the mandatory drizzle of lime juice. The package I bought had three pieces of country-style ribs, a little over 3 pounds total. Leftovers were enough for another full dinner for both of us.
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