To me, there is nothing better than the fall. If I were in Chicago or London, the leaves would be falling on the ground (rather than whipping past my head down Nob Hill at 30 to 50 mph in the evenings!) there would be a crisp chill in the air, and signs of people tucking into a season of comfort(both in food and living) would be all around. Some of those glories, such as say, bonfires, are not allowed where I live (I understand CA, its to protect the air and forests, but I can still say I do not approve!). Others, such as the nature of farmers markets, and the tasty meals one can produce from their bounties, turn the season to fall in the best possible way: they lend all of their ingredients to braises, stews, roasts, and all that is wonderful in the food world. Comfort food from all over, at its finest.
Most people are smart enough to wait awhile – see the leaves change color, watch jackets appear on racks in stores, wait for the retail world to let them know fall has arrived – to bring out the slow cooked trifecta of braises, stews, and roasts. Unfortunately, if you are someone like me, you didn’t get this memo. The realization that not everyone will crave a stew just because its early fall, and will happily suffer through sweating their hiney off all through dinner, does not occur to you as it really should. Thus, you suffer through one hot, sweltering meals. But oh, I made the Brit, and one of my best mates from my years as a Buff, John, do just that, and I must say they were more than happy to chomp away at their meal.
Hey, at least the stew was of Mexican decent – aka no matter when those folks eat it, they would be “rather damp” – so my planning wasn’t completely off the charts. Only a touch. It was worth it though. I found the best pork shoulder possible(thanks Bi Rite!), combined it with my favorite tomatillos from Yerena Farms (they have been mentioned a lot lately, like here, and here), a bit of old school Worchestershire, and some fresh shell beans(we choose cranberry more often than not!), and it makes every least sweltering bite worth it.
Slow Braised Tomatillo and Pork Stew
Adapted from Tomatillo Pork Braise with Pickled Chilies – Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday)
1 1/2 lbs boneless pork shoulder(or 2 lbs with bone), cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, washed and cut into half and fourths
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch coriander (cilantro) chopped, divided in two
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 pickled chilies, found in Mexicatessens
1 to 3 tbsp pickled chili juice
1 cup beer (or chicken stock if you prefer)
3/4 lb fresh shelled beans (we choose cranberry), or 1 can white beans washed
salt and fresh ground pepper
Tortillas and cheese to serve
Place the cubed pork into a bowl, sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper, and mix in the Worcestershire sauce to coat evenly. Set aside. Place the tomatillos in a large heavy bottom stew pot. Scatter the garlic, onions, coriander, and pickled chilies on top. place the pork on top of the vegetables, and cover. Turn on the heat to a medium flame, and wait to hear the tomatillos begin to cook. Pour in the beer or stock and chili juice. When this begins to boil, turn to a medium low heat, covered, and let cook for 2 to 3 hours. Alternatively, you can place all these ingredients in a casserole dish, and place in the oven at 375 for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or in a crock pot on low heat for most of the day.
With the last 30 minutes of the cooking time remaining, add the beans, and stir. The tomatillos will have broken down to create a “soup” with the other ingredients. If you prefer a less chunky stew, at the last 30 minutes, remove the pork with a slotted spoon, blend the vegetables, and return the pork to the stew pot, adding the beans as a final step. At the last 5 minutes, add the remaining cilantro, and let simmer for another few minutes. Serve with warm (preferably fresh made that day, from say, Mijita! if you live in San Francisco) and a shredded sharp cheese on top, if desired.