I was excited to read that this month’s Kitchen Bootcamp challenge was braising and stewing. There’s nothing like a little braising to tender up even the toughest cut of meat and who doesn’t like a good stew in the winter?
I was a little bit inspired by a couple of things this month – firstly, our recent trip to Mexico where the salsas can truly elevate plain dishes to new heights of tasty and secondly, by some sad looking tomatillos languishing in the bottom of our crisper. I found a wonderful recipe for New Mexican Green Chile Stew as I perused Chapter 23 of The Professional Chef, calling for only a very few ingredients and knew that my tomatillos would have a happy home in the salsa which originally called just for Anaheim chiles and jalapeño peppers.
It’s a simple recipe, despite all the steps – as with the wonderful ratatouille I made last year from The Professional Chef, each different ingredient is prepared on its own (or nearly) which means everything is correctly cooked and when you mix them all together you get a perfect marriage of flavours without some ingredients being over or under-cooked. Like most stews, it’s a dish that tastes better the next day and freezes well, developing the flavour even more.
adapted from The Professional Chef, page 657
Ingredients makes 10 servings
227g white beans, soaked overnight
1.6kg pork shoulder, medium dice
2.4 litres chicken stock
680g Anaheim peppers (we used Banana peppers), halved lengthwise
6 small tomatillos, washed
30ml vegetable oil
340g onions, small dice
28g minced garlic (about a tablespoon)
900g potatoes, medium dice
45g jalapeño peppers, seeded
a handful of chipped cilantro
pepper and salt, to taste
cilantro sprigs, to garnish
Place the beans in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then simmer on low-medium heat for about an hour, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Beans should be completely tender.
Meanwhile, while the beans are cooking, bring a large pot of water to the boil and blanch the pork for about 5 minutes, skimming the scum that rises to the surface. This step ensures you have removed any impurities. Drain and rinse the pork and set aside.
Add stock to a large pot and add the pork, potatoes and beans. Simmer on low heat for about 90 minutes. Pork should be extremely tender.
Place peppers and tomatillos flesh side down on an oven tray and broil on high until the skin is blackened. Place them in a bowl and cover them with plastic wrap – this will “steam” them and allow for easier peeling. Peel and remove the seeds of the peppers and the flesh of the tomatillos. Place tomatillo and jalapeno flesh in a blender. Add the jalapenos and chopped cilantro to the roasted peppers and purée until as smooth as you like. (I used the attachment on my immersion blender, perfect for little quantities of salsa!)
Heat oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and fry until onions are translucent – approximately 5 minutes. Add the onions and garlic to the pork mixture. If there is still a lot of liquid, reduce the heat to very low and continue to cook, uncovered until the stew has reached the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
We served this stew the following day – it’s one of those that gets better with age – and to store it, I alternated layers of the pork/potato and the salsa. This allowed for the flavour of the salsa to permeate the otherwise bland stew. To serve, make sure you have a bit of each layer and garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs.