Cider vinegar & maple syrup glazed pork

cider-pork-plate-and-serving-dishWhen did we get so sniffy about leftovers? Gone are the days of the big roasts, the huge casserole dishes of cheesy, melted, layered things. Instead we cook a single chicken breast or one steak with a baked potato and just enough salad so there’s nothing left once we put the fork down. If the CSI team popped round and snooped in our fridge (this is purely hypothetical, granted) they’d be hard pressed to know we even eat.

I get the waste bit – we don’t want to store food in plastic containers only to unearth it weeks/months/you-get-the-idea later to discover we’ve created a new form of penicillin. No one wants to throw away food but on the other hand, aren’t we missing out on the joy of food? Food is messy. Food is communal. Food isn’t shovelling something into our mouths while we check our twitter feed. And leftovers are the delicious evidence of a meal enjoyed, a meal savored. Heck, a lot of food is better the next day (or the day after).

cider-pork-ingredient-shotIt’s like this pork shoulder…It’s glazed with a reduction of cider vinegar, maple syrup, some spices and chile. Yep, chile, the lifeblood, mother’s milk and all-round most awesome thing on this earth. Then you cook it for a long time (this is when you can check Facebook) and then – and then what? Then you call round every friend you can think of and you eat. And you eat. And you eat some more. When you can’t eat anymore you hug your friends goodnight, stow any leftovers in the fridge and go to bed, smug that you’ve got breakfast, lunch and dinner(s) sorted.

If you get sick of it before you finish it (this can happen) then pop the l.o.’s into the freezer. You’ll feel even more smug when you remember that you’ve got the fixings for a sandwich right there, just waiting for you.

So kiss the chicken breast goodbye (figuratively, my friend) and go big. You’ll thank me. Hopefully you’ll do better than that – you’ll invite me over. I’ll even bring my own plastic container for leftovers.

cider-pork-plate-shotCider vinegar & maple syrup glazed pork

Feeds a small army

For the glaze:

½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 dried Chile mulato

1 dried Chipotle chile

1 bay leaf

½ stick cinnamon

1 cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup maple syrup

1 Tbsp honey

For the pork:

Pork shoulder, about 5lbs

Olive oil

Salt

Chile pequin

Preheat oven to 425°

Place the pork into a large casserole dish that has an oven proof cover. Rub some olive oil and salt onto the pork. Put in the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes.

While it’s cooking, make the glaze. Place all the dry ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat for a few minutes until they’re nicely toasted. Then add the vinegar, maple syrup and honey. Cook for another 5 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain.

Baste the pork with the glaze and cook for another 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 240° and cover. Cook for 4 hours or more – until the meat is tender and flakes off easily. (You could also do this in a slow cooker.) Remove from the oven and take the pork out of the pan and place it on a plate. Put the pan with the cooking juices back in the oven and turn the temperature to high to reduce the cooking liquid. While the juices are reducing, flake the meat and then return to the pan and stir to coat. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until nicely glazed then serve, with chile pequin on the side.

Chile Portrait: Ancho Chile

If a Chipotle chile is a can-can dancer—all showy, high kicks, look at me pleeeeze – then Ancho is the quiet man sitting in the corner, nursing a glass of absinthe and smoking a gauloise. You may not notice him at first but trust me, he’s worth a second look. While Chipotle has in-your-face smokiness and Habanero has enough heat to knock your socks off, Ancho has something altogether more subtle but equally appealing.

Let’s start with the basics. Ancho means ‘wide’ and the Ancho starts broad at the top then gently tapers to the bottom—kind of a heart shape. Fresh it’s called Poblano (it’s the chile used in dishes such as chile rellenos). Once a Poblano is dried, it gets the name change and has a deeper dark red – almost black – color and a mild, fruity flavor.

How mild? Okay, let’s talk Scoville. Scoville is a method of measuring chile heat. Developed by a man named Wilbur Scoville back in 1912, it originally used human tasters to measure the heat in a chile (imagine that job). Now we have a high-tech method called High Performance Liquid Chromatography that precisely measures the amount of capsaicin in chile.

ANCHO CHILE GOAT CHEESE

Capsaicin is what gives chile heat. Ancho measures about 1,000-1,500 on the Scoville scale. To give you an idea of what that means, a Jalapeno is around 2,500-5,000 and a Scotch bonnet or Habanero is 100,000–350,000+.

But enough science. Just because an Ancho is milder, doesn’t mean it’s a culinary wimp. Far from it. Ancho offers a depth of flavor that is quite amazing. And Ancho is a great team player – pair it with other chiles and it truly shines. That’s why it’s one of the stars of mole – a sauce that comes from Mexico originally. (Actually, there are lots of different moles but many feature Ancho as a key ingredient. The Santa Fe School of Cooking has a great recipe for Roast Pork Loin with Red Chile Peanut Mole and even runs a mole class – one is scheduled in April.)

What else to do with Ancho? The dried pods can be toasted on a dry frying pan, rehydrated with hot water and made into an awesome chile paste that gives a bit of heat—but not too much—and a lovely, warm reddish hue to a dish. Or if you’re feeling a bit Martha, make a jar of our (soon to be) famous Ancho Chile Goat’s Cheese.

And as ever, if you’ve got a recipe with Ancho—or any other chile—send it our way. We’d love to give it pride of place on The Chile Trail.

ANCHO CHILE GOAT CHEESE 2

Ancho Chile Goat’s Cheese

Goat’s cheese + olive oil + ancho chile. It’s quick, it’s simple and boy does it taste good. The key is to let the goat’s cheese marinade in the oil for a day or two so the flavors really develop. But let’s face it – life is short so please feel free to eat immediately. Slather it on a crusty baguette, crumble it onto roasted veg or place a disc on a grilled chicken breast.

6-8 discs of soft goat’s cheese, cut from a log or buy pre-sliced
1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups Olive oil
2-3 Tbsp Ancho chile powder
1 Ancho chile pod, washed and patted dry
1 Chipotle chile pod, washed and patted dry
1 Bay leaf

Take a small, scrupulously clean jar (a 1 pint capacity Kilner or Le Parfait jar is a great choice and looks nice too). Fill it ¾ of the way with olive oil. Place the ancho chile powder on a small plate. Place a disc of goat’s cheese in the ancho chile so it’s lightly coated with chile powder. Flip and repeat on the other side. Gently, place the disc into the jar filled with olive oil. Repeat with the remaining discs. Place the two chile pods and the bay leaf in the jar and top up with olive oil, if needed, so all the ingredients are covered in oil. Close and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.