Last night at dusk I noticed that we had massive amounts of condensation on the window, and my heart plummeted a little bit. We only get a fog of moisture like that when it’s dropped below 25 degrees outside. Still, even as a voice in my head screamed, “Too soon!” another aspect of my brain started calculating something I could cook for dinner that would drive the impending cold away.
I knew such a dish shouldn’t just be warm, but that it needed to infuse the house with a comforting aroma too. Pasta just wouldn’t cut it. Neither would nachos with a side salad. It had to smell hearty enough to combat that visual reminder on our window sill – winter is about to rear its ugly head.
So, I poked around the refrigerator and discovered a Long Trail Hibernator Ale (how appropriate) and a pork roast. And because I wanted straight-up heat that would make me feel as if I’d been transported to sunny Mexico, I decided to utilize the secret weapon in my pantry – a bag of dried whole chipotle peppers. For less than four dollars that bag has kept me in spice for almost a year. I call that a great investment.
It only adds to the sense of comfort and warmth that, when you pull it bubbling and steaming from the oven, this pork just falls apart tenderly and pulls easily away with a fork. Served on warm tortillas with a homemade salsa, this meal will warm both your toes and the other trembling part of you that’s bracing for winter’s onslaught – your soul.
- 3 dried whole chipotle peppers
- 1 cup of water, boiled
- 1 tablespoon of lime juice
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 2 teaspoons of chili powder
- 2 teaspoons of paprika
- 1 3-pound pork roast
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 1 bottle of beer (a rich, dark ale works well)
- 1 cup of chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the boiling water over the chipotle peppers and cover them with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steep for half an hour. If you want the sauce to be a little milder, remove the seeds from the reconstituted peppers. If not, place the whole peppers, lime juice and brown sugar in a blender with half of the soaking liquid and blend.
In a large oven-proof frying pan, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the spices and stir. Cook them until they “bloom” – filling the room with their beautiful aroma. Season the pork with salt and sear on both sides, about 5 minutes each.
Turn the heat off and add the chipotle sauce, onion, broth and beer. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and make sure to tightly wrap it all the way around. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 2 hours. Twice an hour pull the pan out of the oven and carefully remove the foil. (You want to be careful to avoid a steam burn.) Baste the meat with the juices, re-cover the pan and put back in the oven until it’s done.
Although it’s not winter yet, the tomatoes that are available in our area have rapidly begun declining in sweetness and texture because they have to be trucked in from far away. So, instead of using fresh tomatoes for this late fall salsa, I used canned tomatoes. I know that might sound crazy, but they are often canned the day they are picked, so they are actually fresher than what you can buy in the produce aisle.
Of course if you have your own canned tomatoes you don’t need to worry about buying them. But I used Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted tomatoes, because I like the depth of flavor that the roasting brings to the salsa. However, any canned organic tomato will be great in this recipe.
Also, instead of using fresh jalapenos, one of my tricks is to use pickled jalapenos. I find that it distributes the heat more evenly and using a little bit of the pickling juice helps to make the salsa a little salty and spicy. I very rarely prefer something canned over something fresh, but in this case it really works to make a consistently excellent salsa.
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 cup of cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of lime juice
- 1 tablespoon of pickled jalapenos
- 1 tablespoon of pickled jalapeno juice
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Let sit at room temperature for an hour to let the flavors meld.
To heat the tortillas: Either wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes at 250 degrees, or if you have a gas stove, turn the burner on low and gently put the tortilla over the flame for about 5 seconds. Flip the tortilla and repeat. Keep warm until all of them have been heated.
Serve the shredded pork on top of the warmed tortillas, along with lettuce, onion, radishes, salsa, fresh tomatoes – if desired – and cheese.
Makes 8 servings.