Pork, black eyed peas & sweet potato stew


Pork, black eyed peas & sweet potato stew

Think comfort food and you think winter. I think comfort food and I think, “Congratulations on making it through another day.” I pull the car into the garage, kiss the driveway (unless it’s summer when it’s so hot my lips would stick to the asphalt) and thank heaven I’m home. I can barely get in the door fast enough, close the curtains and breath a heavy sigh of relief.

Because, let’s face it, between work stress, traffic stress, and emails that ping into your inbox faster than you can delete them, we’re frazzled. We tired, pooped, caput, finito, my friend. What we need is a bit of comfort…that and a winning lottery ticket.

So I like to have a pot of pork, black eyed peas and sweet potato stew ready to heat up. It tastes great the first day and ridiculously good the next. Any leftovers you can pop in the freezer for a rainy day. Of course, I’ve never had leftovers but it’s a thought. And as with all things in life, a dash/jot/avalanche of chile makes it all so much better.

It won’t do your taxes. It won’t deal with that obnoxious know-it-all at work. And no, it won’t walk the dog. But it will handle just about everything else. Honest.

Pork, black eyed peas & sweet potato stew.

Make this in a slow cooker or a real low oven, around 250°.

Serves 4

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. oil

1 lb. diced pork

2 Tbsp. Carne Adovada mix (or more to taste)

½ cups stock or water

1 can black eyed peas or other bean

2 small sweet potatoes (about 10oz total weight), peeled and diced

To garnish:

Lime wedges

Avocado slices

Cilantro

Heat a heavy oven proof casserole dish on the stove over medium heat. Sauté the onion in the oil until soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Remove the onion and garlic to a bowl. Sauté the pork in batches, browning on each side. Add more oil if needed.

Return the onions & garlic back to the pan and add the Carne Adovada. Stir to coat. Add the stock or water until the pork is almost covered. Place in the oven (or you can use a slow cooker) and cook until the meat is tender – 2-3 hours. When the meat is almost done, add the black eyed peas and sweet potatoes and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a bit more Carne Adovada  if desired. Serve with lime wedges, cilantro and slices of avocado.

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.