Pithy title about Pork Pozole here
Hello dear reader(s)
(have I reached double digits yet?)
As I’ve spoken about before, I’ve been trying to do the keto thing. One of the key aspects of a ketogenic diet is eating good protein (and fat). One of the key ingredients of doing that is eating grass fed, organic meat. As a result, I joined ButcherBox about a month ago.
Among the animal products I selected, I got several different type of pork (fwiw, the bacon was disappointing — I don’t even know how that’s possible). I had two pork loin steaks and a shoulder, just waiting for transformation into something.
It’s October — it may not feel like Fall just yet, but calendar-wise, it’s Fall. With that said, I decided that I was going to make Pork Pozole because, well, pork. That, and I’m lucky that we have friends that are mostly willing participants in my culinary experiments.
Pozole, for those of you who haven’t had it before, is a pork (or chicken) stew that’s cooked over a long period of time in a broth. Each time I’ve had it, there’s been a really wonderful interaction between the citrus of the lime and the umami of the meat. It’s not spicy, but it is flavorful.
I started by getting the pork out of the freezer — ButcherBox sends their meat packed in dry ice, so it’s already hard frozen when you get it. I guessed that it would only take the afternoon to thaw. This was an incorrect assumption. I also wasn’t that worried about — behold the magic of a pressure cooker to remove any concern about frozen meat.
The pressure cooker is great to get dense meat to an edible form quickly. It’s the only way I make carnitas, both from flavor and time perspectives. That said, anything you put into the pressure cooker that isn’t meat is going to liquify — I knew I wanted to have some bite to the pozole, so I knew I couldn’t use the pressure cooker exclusively.
I’m getting ahead of myself, however. I wanted get the meat started quickly, so I focused on that first. With the meat in the pressure cooker, focused on the rest of the flavors I wanted to get into the pork. The pressure in pressure cookers comes from steam being trapped within the vessel. The frozen pork certainly had enough, but I wanted to kick start it, in addition to adding flavor. I did so by adding a little tequila to the bottom to of the bowl — this probably wasn’t more than a shot or a shot and a half, but it formed a nice background note to build off of.
I started by chopping up a jalapeno pepper and some scallions. This along with the anaheim pepper (at upper left) would go into the pressure cooker. To that, I added two to three pinches of salt, some cumin, and about half a carton of chicken stock. As a last step, I added 20oz of chicken bone broth to add some additional depth to the flavor profile.
Pressure cookers in general, and Instapots specifically, may be magic, but that doesn’t mean they can solve everything. Pozole usually takes multiple hours to simmer everything together — I didn’t have that. To speed up the process of getting the other flavors into the meat, I decided to blend another anaheim pepper, cilantro, and bunch of tomatillos with the juice of three limes.
Tomatillos are something that I wish I’d stated cooking with sooner. First, let’s get one thing out of the way: yes, they look really weird. I think the reason why I avoided them for as long as I have was because they did look so weird.
After peeling something close to two dozen tomatillos, I put them into the blended and added the other half of the carton of chicken stock.
With a little persuading from the tamper, the peppers, cilantro, and broth liquified nicely in the blender. I poured the mixture over the pork and peppers in the pressure cooker, and started it at high pressure for an hour.
The next step was to make sure that I had an actual bite of tomatillo in the soup. This meant cleaning still more tomatillos and getting them into a pot where the could simmer. Once the meat came out of the Instapot, I’ll combine both into the new pot — flavor + bite.
I took roughly another dozen and a half tomatillos, washed them, and quartered them. To that, I added five cloves of garlic a pinch of salt, and cumin. Then I drizzled the whole thing with olive oil and turned on the heat. Once the tomatillos had caramelized a little in the pot, I added another carton of chicken stock and let it simmer.
A note about the oil: I’ve stopped cooking with olive oil entirely. Why, you might ask? While I love the flavor of extra virgin olive oil, it’s not really a cooking oil. EVOO has a smoke point of something like 275 degrees. Anything above that and you’re actually burning the oil. Not only does this not taste good, it’s incredibly bad for you. Since I knew these tomatillos were going to be in stock, I knew they we’re going to get above 212. For sautéing, I’ve switched entirely to cold-pressed organic canola oil (smoke point of almost 500 degrees!).
After letting it simmer a bit, I tasted the broth — it was good, was somewhat monotone and thin. To remedy that, I decided to try adding some chicken Better than Bouillon. Adding a bit more than a tablespoon was a good first step.
One of my favorite movies is Chef. In that movie, there’s a scene where John Favreau dices a peeled lime to add to a sauce. When I tasted the onion and quartered tomatillos, it was better, but still needed something. Thinking back to Thomas Keller’s notion of salt and acid as flavor enhancers, I decided to add the diced lime meat to the broth.
That did the trick. I wanted to make sure that the tomatillos still had some bite to them, so I turned the heat to the lowest simmer setting and waited for the pork to finish in the Instapot.
Once the pork finished, and the pressure was released from the Instapot, I removed the meat and broke it up on a cutting board. Conveniently, I didn't think to photograph this. After adding the meat into the quartered tomatillos, I added the rest of the cooking liquid and vegetables so I could capture all that great flavor. I turned the heat back up to bring everything to the same temperature.
When I’ve had pozole in restaurants (incidentally, why is that word so effing hard to spell correctly the first time?!), it’s always been served some kind of starch. The places where I’ve had it have included a masa cheese cake in the pozole — my thinking for this was that I’d serve the stew over a pupusa. Pupusas are a thick corn flour patty with cheese and/or beans mixed into the dough. Conveniently, there’s a local food company that makes them pre-made.
No good plan survives contact with reality. As it turns out, the local grocery where I buy most of my food no longer carries the pupusas. I decided to improvise and use a tamale that’s been cut in half in it’s place. More or less similar, but not exactly what I was looking for.
With the tamale’s heated, I cut them and placed them into the bowl. I ladled the pozole on top of the half tamale, and then drizzled it with the lime/cumin crema I made (those two things plus sour cream). To that, I added fresh cilantro and a little bit of scallion.
The final touch was putting a dash of smoked paprika over it. Again, I managed to not photograph that part, but just imagine the above with a red dust stripe.
The dish was successful — I was particularly surprised at how well the lime / tomatillo / cumin / paprika complemented each other. Everyone really loved the stew, even the skeptical among them. Now I just need the weather to get about 30 degrees cooler before I make it again ;).