Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mission: El Metate Pork Chile Verde

(Picture nicked from skootersmexicanfoodblog. Thanks, Skooter!)
Although I haven't personally been to the Mission district in San Francisco (yet), I have heard a lot about the legendary burritos which are synonymous with the area. There is a constant debate as to which restaurant serves the best, but according to Chef Joanne Weir, El Metate is one of her favorites! El Metate, located at 2406 Bryant Street, opened it's doors in 2002. Interestingly enough, Joanne Weir's book, Weir Cooking in the City, published in 2004, makes a reference to El Metate and even offers a recipe for "Pork and Tomatillo Burritos." Could this recipe be El Metate's iconic pork chile verde? I'm not sure, but it is amazingly delicious!

This recipe is packed with fresh ingredients and produces a sweet, tangy chile verde that is quite addictive. I have adjusted the recipe by using freshly roasted tomatillos rather than canned ones, but I will include measurements for both, just in case fresh tomatillos are not available to you. This recipe requires browning the pork first, which can make for a greasy mess, so plan for that. In addition, from start to finish, it should take approximately 4 hours. So plan for that as well. And finally, I've never seen such colorful ingredients cook down to produce a very ugly looking mess. Perhaps that's why they stuff  it into a burrito? Either way, it is a personal favorite and I highly recommend you try it!

Pork and Tomatillo Burritos (El Metate?)

Serves 6 (You can also serve it as a soft taco filling.)

For the Chile Verde:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 large green bell peppers, chopped (I hate green bell peppers! I think they are too bitter. I use 1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper instead, chopped.)
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 cups canned tomatillos, seeded and chopped (I prefer 1 pound fresh tomatillos, papery skins removed, washed, and roasted under the broiler until slightly blackened, cut in half. I don't bother seeding them.)
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup water (add 1/2 cup more if using fresh tomatillos)

For Serving:
6 large flour tortillas
6 lime wedges 
1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Fiery Green Salsa (recipe follows) (I prefer Rick Bayless's Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa, preferably home-made, or store bought.)

*Note: Rice and Beans are natural accompaniments

For the Chile Verde:
Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the pork cubes.

Add the pork in a single layer and brown on all sides, 10-12 minutes per batch. Do not overcrowd the pan. Remove the pork from the pan with a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cumin and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatillos, cilantro, and water.

Return the pork to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the pork is tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Remove the cover and simmer until the sauce thickens and reduces to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. (In my experience, it takes way longer than 10 minutes!)

For Serving:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Wrap the tortillas tightly in aluminum foil. Heat them in the oven for 15 minutes until hot. One at a time, place one-sixth of the hot filling in the enter of each warm tortillas. Roll the tortillas to enclose the filling.

Place the burritos on a platter and garnish with the lime wedges. Pass with individual bowls of sour cream, avocado, scallions, and salsa alongside.

Fiery Green Salsa

Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 cups tomatillos, chopped (fresh or canned)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup minced red onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you are using fresh tomatillos, peel and wash them. Place them directly over the gas flame, on a charcoal grill, or in a heavy dry skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until blackened all over, 5-8 minutes. (I would just set them on a baking sheet under the broiler until blackened.) Chop the fresh or canned tomatillos.

In a bowl, stir together the tomatillos, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, and serrano. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipes adapted from Weir Cooking in the City, by Joanne Weir.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Incredible Edible Cure for Burns!

I love to cook, but hate the inevitable burns I receive on a regular basis. Not only does it leave me whimpering at the dinner table, it takes at least a week for the resulting blister to heal, and even longer for the discoloration to fade. That is until...I put a potato on it!

About a week ago, I was frying up a delicioso batch of chiles rellenos and somehow the tip of one of my fingers dipped into the incredibly hot oil! Ouch! (Actually, that's not what I said exactly, but you get the picture!) I immediately ran the finger until cold water to remove the hot oil and help reduce the temperature of the burn. I then took a peek to inspect the damage. It already looked white, like an under-cooked french fry, and it hurt like hell. My sweet kids did what all kids would do in this situation, looked it up on the internet. Their unanimous response was to place a potato on it. They said it might help prevent a blister. Honestly, I was desperate for relief, but really doubted a potato could prevent a 375 degree oil blister from forming...or could it?

I cut a small potato in half, scooped out a small indention with a melon baller, and stuck the tip of my finger in it. I felt immediate relief from the pain! Weird! I kept the potato on my finger until it started to hurt again, in which I melon balled another fresh divot for continuous relief. I did this all evening until the pain was completely eliminated, about 2-3 hours. The next morning I was shocked! Not only was the burn from hell not blistered, it wasn't even red, and it didn't hurt at all! Amazing! So, the next time you get burned, you know what to do, put a potato on it!

Special thanks to the Chinese, who appear to be the ones to discover this excellent remedy!

*Tips: Apparently it is the juice from the potato that brings relief. In addition, you can grate a potato and apply to larger areas, if needed. According to WebMD, it is also supposed to be great for sunburns, infections, boils, arthritis, and sore eyes. Who knew?