Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pork and Nopalito Enchiladas

I felt like cooking this weekend, despite a huge sold-out wine dinner on Saturday night. As the younger guys shoulder more of the load in the restaurant kitchen, my days are moving more and more to logistics and paperwork and my nights are going more the direction of third wheel, in the crew's way, except on busy nights when I am quarterbacking, what we in the business call expediting. None of this involves a pan in my hand and so I think my cooking at home is my way of compensating for this, for finding again what was so enjoyable that it got me into the business. Enough introspection; I made some kick-ass enchiladas on Sunday.

Pork and Nopalito Enchiladas/Guajillo Salsa Roja
Not sure what the genesis of this dish was. I know Ann and I were coffeeing in the sunroom as we do pretty much every Sunday morning, talking about dinner as we do pretty much every Sunday morning, and somehow enchiladas came up, which was enough for me to run with.

Pulled Pork, Nopalito, Green Onion, and Cheese Filling
A quick trip to the supermercado yielded a slice of pork shoulder, some guajillos, a bag of tortillas, a bunch of green onions, a couple cans of tomatoes, and some quesillo especial, grated cheese for pupusas. I have a couple of jars of nopalitos in the refrigerator and I decided to use up some of them in the enchilada filling which also contains the shredded pork shoulder, green onions, some quesillo, and a little bit of the guajillo sauce to moisten it.

Rubbed Pork Shoulder, Tomatoes, Guajillos, Garlic
I wanted to roast the tomatoes hard to give them a bit of a char and I wanted to slow cook/roast-braise the pork until it was fork tender, but not having someone to wash dishes for me, I wanted to use a single pan for the entire operation. I put the tomatoes, a few guajillos, and a dozen cloves of garlic around the outside of the roasting pan, with the rubbed pork shoulder in the middle. The spice rub that I use for pork differs with my mood and the flavor profile I am looking to achieve. This one was pimentón (smoked paprika), cumin, garlic powder, oregano, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper. Because of the spice rub, I did not add any additional seasonings to the salsa roja.

Roasting the Tomatoes While Braise-Roasting the Pork
I tented the pork so that it would roast-braise under its lid while the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic roasted around the edges. I roasted until the tomatoes were good and caramelized, the chiles a little charred, and the pork was falling apart. Meanwhile, I soaked the remainder of the stemmed and seeded guajillos in warm water for a couple hours. Into the blender went those chiles with the roasted tomato mixture and out came the most wonderful salsa roja. Three ounces of guajillos to two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes was just about a perfect ratio. Guajillos are a kitchen workhorse everywhere, having wonderful chile flavor with little to just a bit of spice. If you don't know guajillos, it's time to meet them.

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