Dear Dan

Dear Dan

Hi Dan!

Bruce said you were coveting his lunch the other day …  it’s a stew we first tasted in Chicago years ago. We used to frequent a tiny Guatemalan restaurant in the Ravenswood neighborhood, on the north side. I do not remember the name of the restaurant, and it has since closed. But the pepián served there was one of my favorite dishes.
Here is my closest approximation:

• boneless pork, cut into stew sized cubes – not too small.  Pork shoulder is best, especially if cooking for a crowd, but if it’s just two of you boneless ribs work really well.  1/3-1/2 lb per person (count on seconds).
Pork chops (loin) are too lean and the meat will be dry.

• yellow onions, 1 per lb of meat depending on size – I like a lot. Slice rather than chop and not too thinly or they’ll disappear in the stew. Bruce calls this the long chop – ask him for clarification.

• fresh garlic to taste
• ground cumin
• salt
• cornmeal, to thicken – 1-2 Tbsp per quart of broth
chicken broth, enough to just cover all ingredients (about 4 cups for the 2 person version)

• fresh green beans. Not quite as much as the pork, by volume. Maybe two-thirds as much?  And use regular garden beans, not haricot verts. They will soften a lot during cooking. Cut them in half or thirds – not too small!

• fresh poblano peppers, roasted – how many depends on your taste for hot, and how hot the peppers are. Roast these under your broiler on foil until skins are loosening and blackening, then enclose them in the foil to steam skins and cool; when cool remove skins. I always taste the roasted peppers before I add to the stew. Any leftover roasted peppers can be frozen for future use. Or you can let everyone add to his/her bowl to taste.

• fresh cilantro, rough chop for pot, fine chop for garnish
• green salsa – homemade or store-bought, with tomatillos as first ingredient. I have since discovered that a true pepián would likely include red tomatoes and other dried hot peppers, but green salsa makes a delicious (if less authentic) dish.

1) Brown pork in a large ovenproof pot; use pork fat trimmings or canola oil. Make sure all rendered water boils off. Remove meat and set aside.
2) In same pot sauté onions until soft and caramelized, again with pork fat or oil.
3) Add browned pork, stir and sprinkle with cumin. Add cornmeal and toast it in the pan for a minute or two.
4) Add broth to cover generously, along with the garlic. Bring to a simmer.
5) Cover pot and put it in the oven (360 º – hot enough to keep a simmer).  Total cooking time is 1 1/2 to 2 hours – longer for the crowd sized version.
6) After 1/2 hour (45 min for the big recipe) add the green beans and the rough chopped cilantro. Add broth if necessary to barely cover the beans.
7) After 1 hour the sauce should be thickening.  If not remove the cover for the rest of the cooking time.
8) When pork is tender, remove the pot from the oven. Add the roasted poblanos and stir in the green salsa. (About 1/2 cup for original version.)  DO NOT cook the salsa.
9) Salt to taste, and portion. Garnish bowls with finely chopped cilantro.

I serve this with fresh tortillas, and a Central American salad:
Chopped Romaine lettuce, topped with zucchini chunks/slices, sliced radishes, ripe avocado, roasted red bell pepper, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a red wine vinaigrette.

I have at times added potato and or zucchini to the stew… but not zucchini if I’m serving the salad.



One Comment

  1. Thanks Deb!! I’ll take a photo of this when Maille and I make it! Actually let’s be honest…Maille cooks everything, I’m a terrible cook but she’s terrific! Thanks for thinking of me and posting the recipe!

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