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FEATURE: COOKING LOCAL ROASTED CHILIS PORK TACOS

May 28, 2009

 

-4 pounds country ribs, or other stewing cut
-2 cups masa harina (fine corn flour)
-2 large onions, chopped
-3 carrots, sliced into soup-sized chunks
-3 4 celery stalks, also chopped
-1 large bell pepper
-2 or 3 jalapeno peppers
-1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-1 bottle of beer, preferably dark and mild like Black Butte Porter, Negra Modello or Xingu
-1 large can crushed stewed tomatoes
-5 cloves of garlic, diced
-juice of ½ fresh lime plus zest
-3 bay leaves
-whole cumin and coriander seeds, dash of oregano
-pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
-3 tablespoons oil
-salt and pepper
 
Coat ribs in flour and brown in oil on all sides, set aside. Add in
 
Welcome back to the kitchen. This week I found myself drawn to a great cut of pork that I just had to use. Country ribs come boneless or with a small bone. They are the meatiest rib cut and also can cook for a long time, breaking down into tender deliciousness.
I am a big lover of tacos and Mexican food in general, so I want to slow cook our country pork ribs in a red sauce with fire roasted chilis, tomatoes, beer, veggies and spices until it easily falls apart with a fork. Then we’ll whip up some perfect guacamole, a little cabbage salad, heat up some corn tortillas, and we’ve got an awesome homemade taco that will rival the best authentic truck stand.
Before we get started I want to chare with you a useful cooking resource I recently stumbled across online. http://www.foodsubs.com/. It’s a Cook’s Thesaurus that offers helpful substitutions and identifications and can really make forging your own path in the kitchen much more fruitful.
Foodsubs.com notes that pork country ribs “have more meat than spareribs or back ribs, but they aren't as easy to eat with fingers.  Allow 1/2 pound per person.  They come boneless (pictured) or bone-in. Substitutes:  pork spareribs (less meaty and fatty) OR pork back ribs (less meaty and fatty still).” So you can see, the website is a wealth of information.
Now, let’s get started with our slow stewed red pork tacos with fresh guacamole. For this recipe we’ll need:
 
OK, and time to cook. First of all we’re going to coat all the pork in the masa harina so it get a solid dusting all around the meat. I like to use a pie pan or a big plate to coat the ribs, then shake off the excess flour.
Heat up two tablespoons of oil in a large pot (at least 8 quarts) to medium high. Carefully lay the pork ribs into the pan and let them cook for just a couple of minutes per side. We’re not cooking them all the way through, we’re just browning them a bit for a nice crust that will hold in the juice while they slow cook.
Once all of the ribs are browned all around, take them out of the pan and set aside. Add the last tablespoon of oil and toss in the whole cumin and coriander seeds. This will heat up the seeds until they pop and splutter, and infuse the oil with flavor of the spices. Once the seeds are jumping around, add in the chopped onions.
After the onions have had a couple of minutes head start sauté, add in the carrots, celery, green peppers, and garlic and stir, turning down to medium. While the veggies are cooking a bit more, lets fire roast our chili peppers directly on the burner of the stove. This works whether you have a gas or electric stove. Just turn the heat up to medium high and lay the peppers directly on the burner. The skin will sizzle and blacken after a few minutes, then turn the peppers until they are charred all over.
Once they are roasted, move the jalapeños into a plastic bag and twist it closed. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to let them cool off. This will allow the peppers to steam a bit more and it will make the skins easier to peel off. I highly recommend you use a pair of rubber gloves when you peel the blackened skin off the peppers, you skin will burn and you will have spicy juice all over if you use your bare hands.
Remove the skins, seeds, and stems from the roasted peppers and dice them up small to add to the pork. Mine are nice and spicy with a sweet smokey kick, they will really bring out the character of this dish. Toss them into the pot with the rest of the veggies.
Open up the large can of crushed tomatoes and pour it into the pot. Squeeze in the lime juice and grate in a bit of the peel, or zest for extra tangy flavor. Now let’s pour in the beer and add the chopped cilantro, the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper as well.
Mix all the ingredients together well and add back the browned country pork ribs. The liquids should just about cover over all of the meat so it will simmer and stew down nice and tender. Add another splash of beer or some more canned tomatoes if there isn’t enough juice to cover the ribs.
Bring the dish up to a near boil, then turn it down to low, put on a cover,  and forget about it for a few hours. This is the hard part, the waiting game. Just know that the longer this dish cooks, the better it will be. I recommend letting it simmer for about two hours on low, and even longer if you’ve got the time.
 
So these red sauce and roasted chilis pork ribs have been simmering for a good long time now, lets check them out. They smell delicious and what few bones are in here have completely fallen away from theoh so tender meat. Fish out the bones and discard. Let’s use a slotted spoon to strain the pork (along with some of the onions and veggies) to a serving bowl. Pull apart the ribs using two forks into bite sized taco bits. Wow, this looks awesome. I’m about ready to eat.
To serve these tacos, we need some toppings. So I’m just going to make up a batch of perfect guacamole. We need:
-2 ripe avocados, halved with seed and skin removed
-2 green onions, minced
-the juice of ½ lime
-1 roma tomato, diced
-1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
-a pinch of salt
 
Use a fork to mash all of these ingredients together in a bowl until it gets nice and smooth and creamy. Sometimes I like to toss in a dash of hotsauce as well, but because the meat is quite spicy I’m going to leave it out. Let’s also finely slice up some green cabbage into thin ribbons and toss with a little bit of lime juice. This will make a great cool and crunchy taco topping.
I’m also going to crumble some dry and salty cotija cheese, which is a little bit like feta, but milder. Warm up a big stack of corn tortillas (much more flavor than the wheat flour version) and our taco feast is good to go. Of course you can add chopped green onions, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, or hot sauce as you see fit. Let each person assemble for themselves. You can probably serve at least 8 with the amount of food we’ve made.
These spicy pork tacos are tender, tangy, and delicious. Good luck not stuffing yourself with them. Nice work everyone! I’d love to hear what you’re cooking these days. What ingredients have captured your imagination? Send me an email to isaac@kohoradio.com. Cooking Local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.

 

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