Pork in a Pasilla Chile and Pumpkin Seed Sauce
The pasilla chile, which is the dried chilaca, is used a great deal in this part of Michoacan since it is grown in the next valley, around Querendaro and Maravatio. This is a simple pipian, but so totally unlike that of other regions. It is a personal favorite of mine. It is traditionally served with local tamales called corundas (see the recipe in The Art of Mexican Cooking). The pork used here would be meaty ribs and boneless shoulder, so I have suggested country-style pork ribs and stewing pork in equal quantities.
Sra. Elvira is in charge of the large parking lot where I park my truck on the days that I go into town. She is a plump, pretty little woman, the widow of a laconic, pessimistic little man who recently died of a sudden heart attack at a relatively early age, leaving her with two of the children still to educate and bring up. She lives in a compact and immaculately clean little house at the back of the lot and makes the most delicious hand-patted tortillas on an improvised wood-burning stove next to the cars.
One day she saw me return to the car with a basket full of large and fragrant squash flowers and asked how I was going to prepare them. A long conversation ensued with an exchange of recipes. Almost daily she prepares the main meal of the day for herself and the family, her brother, and his two children-eight or sometimes nine in all. When the budget is tight, the meal consists of tacos sudados or quesadillas of squash flowers, shredded meat with chiles, or just potatoes and chiles. They all sounded, although simple, most delicious. I went back to the market to buy the extra ingredients, went home, and made them. The recipes follow.
Total Timeunder 2 hours
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free
Equipmentblender, spice grinder
Taste and Texturenutty, savory, spiced
- 2¼ pounds (1 generous kg) pork, half country-style spareribs and half stewing pork with some fat, cut into 1½-inch (4-cm) cubes
- Approximately 2 quarts (2 l) water
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 tablespoon salt or to taste
- 4 ounces (115 g) pasilla chiles, about 15, wiped clean, veins and seeds removed, and seeds reserved (with seeds from other large chiles, if necessary, to make ½ cup/125 ml)
- 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
- 1 cup (250 ml) hulled raw pumpkin seeds
- 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2 peppercorns
- 2 allspice
- 2 cloves
Put the pork into a wide casserole (in which you can cook and serve the pipian), cover with the water, add the smashed garlic and salt, cover, and cook over medium heat until the pork is just half cooked-about 20 minutes. Remove 1 quart (1 l) of the water and reserve.
Continue cooking the pork until it is tender. By this time the cooking water should have evaporated. If not, remove the broth and continue cooking the pork over medium heat until the fat renders out and lightly browns the meat. Leave 3 tablespoons fat in the pot.
Meanwhile, toast the chiles lightly on both sides in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, taking care not to burn the flesh, or the sauce will be bitter. Rinse and soak in 2 cups (500 ml) of the reserved broth for about 15 minutes.
Toast the chile seeds until they change to a pale brown color. Grind them in a spice grinder or blender.
Heat the lard in a skillet and gently fry the pumpkin seeds until they begin to swell up and pop around. Add them, along with the whole spices and peeled garlic, to the blender jar with the ground seeds. Add 1½ cups (375 ml) of the reserved broth and blend the ingredients together to a slightly textured puree. Add this to the meat frying in the casserole.
Blend the soaked chiles with the broth in which they were soaked and add to the pan. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add any remaining broth and salt to taste and continue cooking over low heat for 5 more minutes.
The sauce should be fairly thick-coating the back of a wooden spoon-but you may need to add more liquid for the required consistency.
1998 Diana Southwood Kennedy