Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mock Rojo Pork Posole

It's fall here in Beijing. That means sweater weather, and soup dinners, both of which I love. Unfortunately, it also means grey days. Grey with smog. Not a little bit of smog either. Smog that sits in the streets, smog that you can taste in your mouth and feel on your tongue.

Usually, I fit all my grocery shopping in on the weekend, but the pollution and chill have made me loathe to leave the house. I'd rather stay inside with my air filter on, reading a book and drinking smoky Oolong tea all day. Or knitting while catching up on my shows on Netflix.

This pork stew is what happens when it's 5pm on a grey Sunday night and I haven't left the house or gotten groceries.  I want something warm and tasty, something easy, cheap and pretty fast. If it gives me leftovers for Monday night and I can add Mexican flavor to that list, well... I'm all over it.

Living in Beijing makes authentic Mexican tastes hard to come by, not to mention ingredients. I didn't have the larger, fruitier tasting dried peppers that Rojo Posole usually calls for, so I adlibbed. I didn't have hominy that Posole calls for, so I adlibbed. Substitution and flexibility are the mainstays of life around here. I hope you enjoy this stew/soup as much as we did.

2 tbsp corn oil
2 pounds of pork butt, or any cut that is nicely marbled, but not too fatty.
1 1/2 cups of whole, dried red peppers- I used mostly tien tsin, and a few dried bird's eye chiles
1 1/2 tbsp raisins
1/2 cup pepitas (peeled, raw pumpkin seeds)
5 cloves of garlic, peel
1/2  small yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp Mexican oregano, hand crushed (it truly makes a difference if it's Mexican or not)
1 fresh ear of corn cut in half and boiled briefly, or a can of corn (not creamed!!), drained
1 can kidney beans, not drained
1 can of whole, peeled or diced tomatoes
Chicken boullion- enough of whichever brand you like to make 5 cups of broth
Salt to taste

30 mintues before you begin cooking:

  1. Put a dry pan over medium high eat, and add the peppers. Briefly toast peppers, stirring frequently, and taking the pan off the heat when you begin to smell a toasty pepper aroma- maybe 2 minutes.
  2. Bring four cups of water to a boil, add the peppers and raisins, then turn off the heat. Allow the peppers to sit in the water reconstituting for 20-30 minutes. 
Make the broth base:
  1. Once the peppers are softer, add half the peppers and raisins to your blender with half of the chile water and the remaining clove of garlic. Puree.
  2. Add the can of tomatoes to the blender and the pepitas, and puree until pretty smooth (pepitas will cook during the next stage and small pieces will add body to the soup, rather than being crunchy). 
  3. Add your boullion and remaining chile water, blend. 
  4. Now taste- it should be spicy, but not so spicy you can't tolerate it. The tomato should add a little tang, but not too much. The boullion should add salt, but not too much salt. Pepitas add body and calm spiciness. You shouldn't be able to taste the raisins at all, they are just meant to add a little bit of very subtle sweetness to make up for the lack of real, smoky, deep, fruity tasting Mexican peppers. If you can tolerate it,  I highly recommend adding the rest of the raisins and more peppers. Adjust the broth base to your liking, keeping in mind that you will add more water to the final soup. It should be potent, not deadly spicy. 
Begin the soup:
  1. Cut the meat into 1" cubes, pat dry with a paper towel, then salt.
  2. Heat a large pot over medium-high, and add the corn oil. When the oil is warm-hot, add half of the pork, and brown. Work in batches to brown all of the pork pieces, making sure not to crowd the pan. - While you wait for pok pieces to brown, set up your blender or food processor and get a ladle. 
  3. When all the pieces are browned, remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon or tongs.  
  4. Add the diced onion and 4 of the cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, to the same pot, using remaining oil and pork drippings to saute onion and garlic until soft. Add the Mexican oregano and stir.
  5. Add the pork back to the pot.
  6. Add the soup base to the pot and add enough water to fully cover the pork. 
  7. Bring soup to simmer and cook for 40 minutes, or until pork is tender. 
  8. When pork is tender, add the drained corn and the can of beans, liquid and all. Bring soup to a boil just to heat corn and beans through. 

Serve with:
Sour cream, chopped cilantro, warm flour or corn tortillas, chipotles, fresh pico de gallo and of course, Mexican pickled onions.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pasta Emily

This recipe comes from a Sunset Magazine Recipe Annual cookbook from the 1989. I won't lie - a lot of 80's cookbooks give me the willies. Weird arrangements, odd garnishes, remnants of 'haute cuisine' elements from the 50's, like aspics. Pasta Emily and its variations, however, are simple, tasty gems.

The recipe is found in the March section of the annual, with the heading Pasta for Breakfast because they include, you guessed it, eggs. I've never had it for breakfast, but I don't think it'd take much convincing for me to try it. I make this regularly for lunch or dinner because I usually have all the ingredients on hand, it's a one pot meal and it's very fast. It always hits the spot. The Man and I split a recipe with a little leftover (if he's not completely ravenous that day).

I grew up with this recipe and only recently looked at the actual printed directions in the book. I've never seen a more adorable set of recipe variations; there's a Pasta alla Mama on which the others are based, Pasta Papa, Pasta Maxwell and Pasta Emily- a whole pasta family! My father and I just recently made one of the other members of the family, Pasta Papa, and it was different, but equally delicious. I'll include some of the other variations' ingredients below... just to keep the whole family together. 


Pasta Emily
from Sunset Magazine's Sunset Recipe Annual: 1989 Edition


3/4 pound spaghetti (I love it with linguini)
3 tbsp butter or olive oil (or a mix)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-large red or yellow onion, chopped
2-3 eggs, beaten (I generally do 2)
3-5 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (optional, and delicious)
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
a bunch of cilantro, chopped


1. Put large pot of salted water on to boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain.
2. In the same pot, melt butter or add oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until soft, about 1 minute. 
3. Add drained pasta and mix well, aiming to coat the pasta with your hot butter or oil.
4. Add eggs and cheese if using, stir to coat pasta and cook until eggs are set, about 1-2 minutes. (Don't over cook the egg, ew.)
5. Add tomato, avocado and cilantro and stir quickly, then take pan off of heat. Season with salt and pepper and eat!

I eat mine with lots of pepper flakes on top and extra cilantro. Yum!

Bonus Variations:

Pasta alla Mama includes everything in Pasta Emily up to the parmesan cheese, then adds parsley.

Pasta Papa is a heart-clenchingly delicious concoction of 2 links hot italian sausage crumbled, 3 slices bacon chopped into pieces, 3 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp chopped green onion, 3 eggs, chopped parsley and parmesan. It's amazing!

Pasta Maxwell includes everything in Pasta alla Mama, then adds chopped smoked salmon and thinly sliced green onion. Mmm!