Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mojo Mom's braised-pork chipotle chili

Being a Mojo Mom means that you remain open to reviving old aspects of yourself you thought you'd left behind. When we first got married, Michael and I took a 13-week cooking class together, and we cooked a lot of really delicious, complicated food. But after becoming a Mom, I have to admit that I lost my cooking mojo for a long time. I even hired a cooking service to bring us meals once a week for the last six months of my major writing projects, so that at the end of the day I felt nurtured, too, instead of harried and overworked all the time.

But, you never know when those old sparks will reignite. I have been cooking more lately, and last weekend I took on the challenge of entering a friend's ninth-annual chili cookoff. I made it into a huge project, and even though I didn't know a lot about chili, I did know that I love braising, which is a way to slow-cook meat, and I love smoky chipotle peppers. So I Googled around for recipes with those ingredients, and I combined and adapted two to make my own creation. So thanks to The Constables' Larder for their Double Braised Pork Chili recipe, which I adapted to prepare the meat, and Cooking with Amy for her Chipotle Chili, which I used for guidance on the beans.

I loved the dish I created. The pork was so tender it came off the bone with just a fork, and it had the texture of North Carolina barbecue. The key is to make the pork flavorful even before mixing it with other chili ingredients. The chipotle peppers were not too spicy for my taste (this recipe may be too spicy for most kids though). I came in second place out of 25 entries at the cookoff, so I figured I had better write down this "prize-winning" recipe before I forget what I did!

Mojo Mom's braised pork chipotle chili

Step one: Braise the pork shoulder (the night before)

1 bone-in pork shoulder or butt (3 to 4 lbs.)
2 dried ancho chiles, seeds and stem removed
3 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp salt
2 onions, chopped
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped
2 cups white wine (next time I'll try beer and see how that works)

Lightly salt and pepper the pork shoulder and brown it all over in in a large pan or dutch oven with a little olive oil. Let it cool a bit.

In a food processor, combine ancho chiles, bay leaves, salt and garlic and pulse until it is finely chopped. Rub the mixture all over the pork. In a clay pot cooker (pre-soaked in water) or oven-safe closed container, lay down a bed of onions and peppers. Put the pork on top, and pour in wine and enough water to cover the a third of the pork. Cover and put into a cold oven. Heat to 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then turn heat down to 300 degrees. Braise for 2-3 hours, turning the pork halfway through. You can turn the pork over one more time then turn off the oven before you go to bed, leaving the pork covered in the cooling oven overnight, and resume in the morning.

Step two: Make the chili--leave enough time for it to simmer for a couple of hours

Braised pork shoulder
reserved braising liquid
1 can pinto beans
2 cans white cannellini beans
6 slices thickly cut bacon
1 1/2 yellow onions, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 can sliced jalapenos
2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp ground oregano
1 tbsp salt

1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (you'll only use 2-3 chiles--they are hot!)

Remove the braised pork from the clay pot. With two forks, take the pork off the bone and shred into bite-sized pieces. Skim the fat off the braising liquid and reserve 1 to 2 cups.

In a Dutch oven on the stovetop, saute the bacon until almost crispy. Remove bacon from pan and turn off heat. (When the bacon has cooled, break or cut into bite-sized pieces.) Drain excess bacon fat from pan but leave about 1 tablespoon in it for your saute. On medium-low heat, saute the onions and garlic until almost translucent, then add the rest of the ingredients except the chipotles: beans, bacon, shredded pork, tomatoes (drain and reserve liquid from can for later fine-tuning), tomato paste, jalapenos to taste, and herbs.

To infuse the chipotle flavor: Take 1 chipotle at a time, de-seed it and cut it up. In a food processor (preferably a small one), mix 1 chipotle, 1 tbsp tomato paste, and about 1/2 cup reserved braising liquid. Liquefy this together. Add to simmering chili pot and taste. If you want it spicier, repeat with another chipotle. [I invented this part of the recipe and it worked really well. I figured the chipotle flavor would dissolve best in the fatty braising liquid, and having the chipotle carried in a larger volume of liquid would help distribute it evenly through the pot. Adjust the amount of tomato in this part to suit your taste.]

If you want a moister chili, add more reserved braising liquid and/or liquid from the crushed tomatoes. Simmer on low heat for several hours and adjust salt/spices as needed. Eat and enjoy!


The resulting chili was delicious. It was like a pork stew with a medium amount of sauce. I topped it with sour cream and paired it with a good Mexican beer.

The recipe was pretty easy to make but there was a fair amount of cleanup involved. But, even taking a huge pot to the cookoff, we had enough to last us from Saturday through Wednesday, so the effort paid off. It was a win all around--good food, friends and fun. My family even appreciated it!

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Anonymous Amy said...

This sounds delicious, and I love how you relished creating it. You also make me feel a lot better about my hypocritical unbalanced life at the moment by telling us that you hired a meal-prep service while you were in big-guns writing mode. I'm there right now, and that meal-prep service is looking like a really good idea! Can't wait to get back in the kitchen too.

12:01 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Hi Amy, Yep, I had to fess up to the cooking service. The fact is that we can't be all things at all times. I have accepted that there will be busy work seasons and hopefully many fun family seasons. The trick is being able to switch back and forth and make sure that whatever we're doing is sustainable in the long run. There are times that I know that it will be crazy for a while! Last night my husband said "I want to spend more time with you" and that was on the top of my mind, too. We need family time and time with just us alone. We are knee-deep in discipline right now as our daughter gets older. Honestly, it can get really wearing on our own essential, personal relationship to play Mom and Dad all day long. That's real life, of course, but we need to nurture our couple relationship, too.

12:06 PM  

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