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Monday, April 4, 2011

Pork braised in tomatillos aka Chile Verde or How I learned to stop missing my Weber Kettle and love my Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Remember in "2001: A Space Odyssey" when the monkeys quit fighting and started staring at the monolith and the music plays that iconic "BAAAAM BAAAAM BAAAAM BA BAAAAAAAM!!!? Cue that. Cuz thats how important this thing below is:

I love my Weber kettle. The fact that its no longer at my quick disposal is a source of melancholy and tribulation. However through adversity we find skills, or in this case, tools, we did not realize we had. Tools that ultimately drive us to a Hector like triumph on the battlefield known as my kitchen. The Le Creuset dutch oven is the spear that slayed Achilles. Tamer of tough proteins, generator of delicious fonds, one heavy bitch that I love resting in my cabinet. Sometimes I just open the cabinet door and look at her . . . maybe it's because she is shiny red. Maybe it's because she cost over $200 and if it wasn't for my generous brother and sister in laws, I may not have her, either way she is grand.

Chile Verde

Chile Verde, aka Pork braised in tomatillos is also awesome. Much credit goes to Food and Wine's Best of the Best(in this case vol. 9, also a gift from my amazing in laws) for publishing this lip smacking recipe from Rick Bayless, a Mexican food junkie, chef and author. Perfect for a Super Bowl party, a cold Winter's night or any time you feel hungry and want to please any swine lover, this dish is a slam dunk. Bayless takes some of the labor out of what can be an all day recipe and compresses into about three and a half hours. But most of the work is done within the walls of the LC.

The recipe is simple enough. Just put stuff in the pot then throw it in a 325 degree oven. Start with a base to braise your meats. In this case we have tomatillos, cilantro, potatoes and some pickled jalapenos.

It's important to know what we are up against in order really appreciate what a heavy dutch oven in a low and slow, steady oven can do. This is strips of pork shoulder, also known as Boston Butt. You can see the fat, well it's not just fat, it is connective tissue that say if seared on high heat, like on a pan or grill, would produce something tougher than leather, and much like the RUN DMC movie . . . that would be a bad thing.

But when placed in the LC, the moisture from the tomatillos and the condensation that is produced from the heavy lid create a braising liquid, that over time, or in this case, 3 and half hours, melt all the "collagen" or connective tissue. The result:

You don't even need teeth. In fact when I lose all mine, rather than dentures, I'll just eat this 24/7.

In this version, I tossed in Cannelini Beans right when the pork had finished cooking in the oven, just to heat them through. Bayless mentions that chicken thighs, lamb shoulder as well beef can be substituted but after maybe 5 goes at this recipe, I have been hard pressed to change a thing. And yes, it's as good if not better the next day.

Do I still miss my Weber? Yes. But the LC proves that there is more to cooking than charcoal and BBQ sauce. Too bad AliBraizez doesn't have the same ring.

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