Friday, May 16, 2014

"Authentic Mexican" by Rick Bayless - Pork with Smoky Tomato Sauce, Potatoes and Avocado ("Tinga Poblana") for Cinco de Mayo

Date I made this recipe:  May 11, 2014 (a late Cinco de Mayo celebration)

Authentic Mexican – Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless as seen on the Public Television series MEXICO-ONE PLATE AT A TIME
Published by:  William Morrow
ISBN:  0-688-04394-1
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Pork with Smoky Tomato Sauce, Potatoes and Avocado ("Tinga Poblana") – p. 248 – 249

Four things:

  1. New favorite word?  "Tinga."  Tinga, tinga, tinga!  Love it.  Tinga doesn't really have a Spanish translation but usually refers to a stew made with shredded pork or chicken and peppers.
  2. Once again, Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May), came and went and so I made this dish on the "Once de Mayo" (11th of May) and am getting around to posting this on the "Quince de Mayo" (15th) – more or less.  It's how it goes, folks, but at least I get the opportunity to practice my Spanish numbers!
  3. I keep wanting to call Rick Bayless "Rick Steves" as in the "London on $10 a day" Rick Steves.  My husband and I used Rick Steves' travel books a lot in our early days of traveling.  They were fun and entertaining and we traveled for cheap – just like he promised.  Although Rick Steves' has had shows on PBS, same as Rick Bayless, the two should not be confused. Rick Bayless is a chef.  Rick Bayless is an expert on Mexican cooking, not travel, and to this day, I still cannot get into one of Rick Bayless' Chicago restaurants without having to offer up a first-born child that I do not have.  So lucky for us, this Rick publishes cookbooks.  And lucky for you, if you want to visit Mexico, you can use the other Rick's books to get you there.
  4. Although certain cultures, like Mexican and Thai, use a lot of chilies in their dishes thus "inoculating" the natives to tolerate heat better than the rest of us, the ability to tolerate or not tolerate heat resides with our taste buds.  My husband can tolerate a lot of heat whereas I felt a sheen of sweat on my break out on my face as I ate this dish and the dish wasn't even all that hot!  You should do your chili research though, before attempting anything in this cookbook.

I have to admit, it's a little daunting making something from any of Rick Bayless' cookbooks, particularly one titled Authentic Mexican because true Mexican cooking does not mean open a can of beans, pour over rice (boiled in a bag) and add salsa.  Nuh uh.  To make something out of this cookbook requires time and patience, neither of which I have these days as witnessed by the fact that I got around to cooking this dish 6 days after Cinco de Mayo.  And so I read carefully and selected carefully this recipe so as not to spend days in the kitchen.  I am happy to report that this dish was great and required minimal time.

What I like about this cookbook is that it is pretty comprehensive but not in such a way that you feel like you're carrying around an encyclopedia collection.  This book clocks in at 384 pages and that includes an introduction and an index.  In the back, you'll find a Glossary of Mexican Ingredients and Equipment and each recipe comes with several tips and techniques. 

For today's recipe, we have the basic instructions, accompanied by several Cook's Notes:  Techniques; Ingredients; Timing and Advance Preparation ("Tinga can be made in 1 ½ hours;" and notes about variations  I'll recap those notes (all but the variations) at the end of the recipe.

We begin our descent by hitting the grocery store. I'm glad I made a first stop at Byerly's where I was able to find a one-pound piece of pork steak substitute for a 1 pound pork shoulder as pork shoulders usually come in 2-3 pound packages.  I have always found the butchers in Byerly's meat department to be most helpful when it comes to alternatives plus – nice bonus - they sharpen your kitchen knives there for free.

I also picked up the chorizo at that store but think I made a tiny boo-boo in that I purchased smoked chorizo, not "regular."  But no matter since I just chopped the sausage finely before cooking.

The remaining ingredients were purchased at Rainbow (owned by Roundy's which recently sold off a slew of stores; we are awaiting word on who will run ours) which is a great store for the basics.  The recipe called for either vine-ripe tomatoes, roasted or boiled (and then peeled and cored) or canned and I went with canned because I did not have the time or patience (remember, it was in short supply) to do it the "long" way.  Once you get going, the recipe comes together pretty easily although I did have to keep checking back to see if I was following the right order.

And so I chopped and browned and stewed and the result was fantastic!  The chiptoles gave it a bit of zip and the sweetness from the sugar evened out the tang from the tomatoes.  It was muy bien and we would make it again in a heartbeat.

This concludes the Cinco de Mayo (or thereabouts) celebration for 2014.  Ole, Ole, Ole, Tinga, Tinga, Tinga!

Pork with Smoky Tomato Sauce, Potatoes and Avocado – yield:  4 servings
1 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut in 1 ½-inch cubes
½ teaspoon mixed dried herbs (such as marjoram and thyme)
3 bay leaves
2 medium (about 10 ounces total) boiling potatoes like the red-skinned ones, quartered
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, drained OR 1 ½ pounds (about 3 medium-large) ripe tomatoes, roasted or boiled (paged 352), peeled and cored
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chorizo sausage, store-bought or homemade (p. 55), removed from its casing.  Ann's Note:  I didn't notice until I got home that I purchased smoked chorizo.  I removed the casings then finely chopped it and it seemed to work out just fine.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 (canned) chiles chipotles in adobo, seeded and thinly sliced
4 teaspoons of the adobo sauce from the can of chiles (NOTE:  the author indicates that if you find the chipotles packed in vinegar, use them but don't use the sauce.  My adobo sauce contained vinegar – not to be confused with "packed in vinegar" but to be on the safe side, I left it out.  Besides, I wanted to make sure the dish wasn't too hot for my taste buds!)
Salt, about ½ teaspoon
Sugar, about ½ teaspoon
1 ripe, medium avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 ounces Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like mild goat or farmer's cheese (or Muenster), cut into 8 fingers
A ¼-inch slice of onion, broken into rings

The meat
Bring about 1 quart salted water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan, add the pork, skim the grayish foam that rises to the top during the first few minutes of simmering, then add the herbs and bay leaves.  Partially cover and simmer over medium heat until the meat is tender, about 50 minutes.  (If there is time, let the meat cool in the broth.)  Remove the meat, then strain the broth and spoon off all the fat that rises to the top; reserve 1 cup.  When the meat is cool enough to handle, dry it on paper towels and break it into ¾-inch pieces.

The potatoes, tomatoes and chorizo
Boil the potatoes in salted water to cover until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes; drain, peel (if you want), then chop into ½-inch dice.  Seed the tomatoes , if you wish, by cutting them in half crosswise and gently squeezing out the seeds; then chop into ½-inch pieces.  Fry the chorizo in oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat until 10, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up any clumps.  Remove, leaving as much fat as possible in the skillet.

Browning the main ingredients
Raise the heat to medium and add the onion and pork.  Fry, stirring frequently, until well browned, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes.

Finishing the stew
Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano and chorizo, mix well and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in the potatoes, the reserved cup of broth, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce from the can.  Simmer gently for 10 minutes to blend the flavors, then season with salt and sugar.

Garnish and presentation
When you're ready to serve, scoop the simmering tinga into a warm serving dish and decorate with alternating slices of avocado and fingers of cheese.  Strew the top with onion rings and serve.

Cook's Notes: Timing and advance preparation
Tinga can be made in 1 ½ hours.  It improves with age:  Prepare it through Step 4 (finishing the stew), cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Reheat slowly, then garnish with avocado, cheese and onion.

Cook's Notes: Browning the Ingredients
A good part of the depth and richness of this dish comes from a thorough browning in Step 3.  And roasted (rather than canned or boiled) tomatoes underscore the browned flavors.  Ann's Note:  but using canned saves so much time and effort!

Cook's Notes:  Chiles Chipotles
Without these peppers, the dish is no longer tinga.  If you find the chipotles packed in vinegar, use them but don't stir in any of the vinegar from the can.  If only dried ones are available, toast them lightly on a hot griddle, soak until soft, then stem, seed, slice and add.

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