Fall is by far my favorite season. When I was a kid, my brother and I used to help my dad rake leaves in the fall. We'd pile them high in the back yard, not far from the hedge between our house and the neighbor's house. When we were just about finished raking and just about to set a match to them, we'd look in time to see a tan streak, shooting through the bottom of the hedge. Rudy, the neighbor's boxer, was waiting for this moment. He'd tear into the yard, run round and around and around the pile of leaves, and suddenly take this enormous leap, landing in the middle of the pile. He'd come out grinning, and then take off and do it again. We'd stand there and laugh each and every time he flew into the air and landed in the pile. He loved it, and so did we!
The meals of fall always smell good, too. I love walking inside and smelling something bubbling on the stove or in the oven. It says "home" and "comfort" to me. When I lived in New Mexico, a pot of food on the stove and a pile of wood out back were the equivalent of money in the bank. We didn't cook much with tomatillos when I lived there. I don't know why. But I've discovered their delicious greenness here in San Diego. They taste slightly tart, and add such a wonderful counterpoint to meat and potatoes.
I looked at Wikipedia to learn something about tomatillos. Here's what it said:
The tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa or Physalis philadelphica) is a plant of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, bearing small, spherical and green or green-purple fruit of the same name. The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by a paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be any of a number of colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Latin American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk is a quality criterion. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green colour and tart flavour are the main culinary contributions of the fruit.
I find it amazing that herbs are so incredibly versatile. Oregano, which is used in this recipe, is an herb I grew up associating with Italian food. But it's versatility is astonishing. One minute it's Italian, the next it's Greek or New Mexican! What I love most about it, other than it's flavor, is it's meaning: "Delight in the mountain". Don't you just love that?
I found this recipe in the October Food And Wine magazine. Of course, I've tinkered with it, but I'll give it to you as it's written first, and then tell you what I've done to it.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 3-inch chunks
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 large celery ribs, finely diced
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 Anaheim chile, seeded and finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons mild chile powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Pinch of dried oregano
- 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 1 cup 1/2-inch-diced carrots
- Two 6-ounce russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
- One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound tomatillos—husked, rinsed and cut into 1-inch dice
- Hot sauce
- Chopped cilantro, for garnish
- Corn tortilla chips, for serving
- In a medium casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until browned on 2 sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add the celery and onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the diced chile, garlic, chile powder, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and tomatillos, cover and simmer over low heat until the pork is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
- Transfer the pork to a plate and shred with two forks. Meanwhile, simmer the stew over moderate heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir the shredded pork into the stew and season with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Ladle the stew into bowls, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with a few tortilla chips.
MAKE AHEAD The stew can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.
Notes: I added string beans to my stew. Also, I didn't use Anaheim chilis - they have no heat. I used my green chili from Hatch, New Mexico. The best! When you use good chilies, you don't need to bother with chili powder or hot sauce. Also I left the pork as cubes instead of shredding it, as I find that more satisfying. And I didn't bother with the cilantro or the tortilla chips.
I'm entering this post in Kalyn's Kitchen Two Year Anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging. Can you believe it's been 2 years since she started this event? Congratulations, Kalyn!Mission Valley Acupuncture.