Oh Yeah, I Forgot...

A friend told me that she actually knew of a reader (thank you, thank you) who has been waiting for months (Such patience! Such loyalty!) to hear how that darn pork roast turned out. I remember it well, even though many meals have been plopped down on my table since.

It was horrible, like cardboard.

Michael Pollan’s latest actually sheds some light on the pork loin problem. With our “lipophobia” (fear of fats) that came out of the ’77 and ’82 dietary guidelines from the National Academy of Sciences, we began to breed for leaner pigs. They became “The Other White Meat.” But it seems my high school home ec. teacher had it right: the flavor is in the fat, and that’s why the Prime steaks at Fairway have gorgeous marbling and taste like heaven (if red meat is your thing). Note that three of us share one small steak, so as red meat consumers we’re not at the top of the charts.

Since the March Madness of the pork loin debacle, I have been a champion of the pork shoulder. It’s cheap, difficult to botch, and oh my does it taste good.

One time I put a whole boneless roast in the slow cooker along with some celery, carrots, cannelloni beans, and a big can of tomatoes. I think I made a sauce of some of the veggies and juices after it all cooked for 6 hours and the meat was all falling apart. We were happily heating that dish up for a couple of days.

When I was in Sacramento last summer and under the tutelage of Iron Chef Maurice, I raided his cookbooks, xeroxing every good thing I could find. Many of these were from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday, a book Maurice swears by. This past Sunday I made Puerco y Papas al Gujillo, which translates into Guajillo Spiced Pork and Potatoes. It was a revelation.

The deceiving thing about slow cookers is that it’s easy to confuse them with the Ron Popeil philosophy of cooking: “Set It and Forget It.” You usually can’t just throw everything into the pot, set the timer and go to work. There is usually some kind of prep work (e.g., chopping, sautéing) to do before you can resume your leisure activities. This recipe is no exception. You have to toast the guajillo chilies, puree them with a bunch of ingredients, and strain them over the meat and potatoes. Don’t let me dissuade you, however. It’s about 30 minutes of prep—then you’re free to watch movies, read a book, do a load of laundry, and have a good long phone chat.

It’s a heavy dish; still it’s good for a summer night (like in Mexico). I served it with black beans, tortillas and corn one night, escarole salad on the next.

Puerco Y Papas al Guajillo
(from Bayless’ Mexican Everyday)

Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
1 1/2 – 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed (I used 1 1/2” cubes)
2 oz (about 8) dried guajillo chilies (stemmed, seeded, and torn so they lie flat)
1 – 15oz can diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C (loosely packed) chopped cilantro for garnish
1/2 C diced white onion

1. Set the potatoes over bottom of slow cooker and top with pork.
2. Heat med. (8-inch) skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, toast the chilies – about 10 seconds per side. Any smoke means they are burning. Put in blender.
3. Add tomatoes w/ juice, garlic, oregano, Worcestershire, a generous 1 1/2 tsp. Salt, and 1 1/2 C water. Blend until as smooth as possible. Strain mixture through a medium-mesh sieve directly into slow cooker, over meat and potatoes. Stir to mix.
4. Put on lid and set to slow-cook on high for 6 hours. (It can keep on “warm” for 4 hours after cooked.)
5. Stir when done, add water if sauce seems too thick. Add salt if you think it needs it.
6. Serve in bowls with cilantro and onion on top.

Note: You can also do this in a Dutch oven at 300 degrees for 2 -1/2 to 3 hours.

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