Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chiles and Pork Tenderloin

I think I might be the only person who read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and increased my meat consumption. Yes, the book is gruesome and gory, I was vegetarian for almost ten years because of animal cruelty, but it also highlights the many ways in which farmers are raising happy, healthy animals on small, bucolic farms. For some reason the thought of eating a happy animal makes me happy, whereas eating sad animals makes me feel guilty and regretful. I'd rather stick with tofu.

I don't often attempt pork. My reintroduction to it was over the summer in the form of leaf lard, rather than jumping into the lake, I thought I'd stick my toe in first. I'd pass by the Flying Pigs Farm stand at the Union Square farmers market (they have pictures of the most gleefully happy hogs on their website, who could resist!) eyeing their offerings, bacon, tenderloin, shoulder, pork belly and leaf lard, I'd swerve close enough to peruse the table, then pass by. 

But with summer comes pie and it wasn't long before I was cutting soft white tablespoons of lard into flour and salt. I could feel the happiness of the flying pigs as I crimped my crusts. Like a gateway drug, then came bacon, a failed attempt at pork chops, and the good fortune of eating a few tenderloins at dinner parties. I wanted more.

Last week, while flipping through my cookbooks, I came across another David Tanis recipe that sounded perfect for a cold, Sunday evening with a football game on. It was for pork shoulder baked in a spicy sauce of chilies and garlic accompanied by hominy and fresh citrus and vegetables to cool your tongue. 

I knew I couldn't fit a pork shoulder in my toaster oven but after eating a few tenderloins I thought it might make a nice substitution. I also couldn't find dried Mexican Chiles and replaced them with chipotle chiles, which were HOT! The bathroom became a spicy sauna for nearly six hours. My eyes  burned, I developed a persistent cough, and I made the mistake of removing the chile seeds with my bare hands. Even after many laps in the pool I couldn't cool my burning fingers. My advice, protect your hands, dish gloves, ziplock bags, anything non-porous.

Still interested?

The sauce for this pork is intense but so delicious. The hominy turned out eh, and the vegetables and citrus were gorgeous with the meat. I would say it's worth the effort.

And when you're at the meat counter, when the butcher asks, "What'll it be?" You're response will be, "One happy pig please!"

David Tanis' Slow Cooked Carne Adovada from Heart of the Artichoke

6 ounces dried New Mexico red chiles (I used chipotle)
2 tbs. lard or vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
salt and pepper
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 bay leaf
3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, left whole or cut into large chunks (or I used one good sized tenderloin 2 would work as well)

Rinse and dry the chiles, then toast them in a dry cast-iron pan (I toasted them in my toaster oven) over medium heat until the puff up a bit and become fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Cut the chiles lengthwise in half and remove the stems and seeds.

Put the chiles in a small pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Let the chiles cool in the liquid. Puree the chiles with a cup of their cooking liquid in a blender until smooth (I used my immersion blender).

Heat the lard or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes. No color, no browning. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin and bay leaf, then add the chile puree and a little salt and simmer for another 5 minutes. Cool the mixture. (You can do this well ahead if you wish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the pork in a low roasting pan or a heavy bottomed ovenproof pot and season generously with salt and pepper. Pour the chile sauce over the pork and mix well to coat. Cover tightly with a lid or foil.

Bake the pork for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (45-50 minutes for a tenderloin), until the meat is quite tender and falling apart. (This dish can be made a day or many hours ahead and reheated.)

My hominy didn't turn out very well so if you have a recipe of your own, go for it and serve the pork on top. If you want an alternative, peeled and boiled potatoes would also be delicious.

Platter of Jicama, Avocado, Radishes and Oranges

1 small jicama, peeled and thinly sliced
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1 large bunch of radishes, trimmed
3 navel oranges, sliced into thick rounds
2 small cucumbers, peeled and quartered lengthwise
a few mexican or key limes
Good-quality red chile powder

Arrange all the fruits and vegetables beautifully on a huge platter (or on a banana leaf if you happen to have one handy), and surround with halved limes.

In a small serving bowl, mix equal parts salt and chile powder. Or do this to taste-you can make the mix saltier or spicier. Dip a lime half in the chile mix, rub on the spices, and squeeze the lime juice over the fruit and vegetables.

the pork was so spicy I omitted the chile and salt mix. And the lime is also good squeezed over your pork.

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