Shredded Pork Stew

1-1/4 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1/2 cubes
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
3 bay leaves
3/4 lb. red potatoes, not skinned and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 T. olive oil
3 or more chorizo or Italian hot sausages, casing removed (I use mild sausages and let folks add their own heat– jalapeños, chili powder, hot sauce — to individual servings.)
1 medium onion, fine chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
chipotle chili in adobo sauce (16 oz.)*
12 oz. can peeled Italian tomatoes, chopped#
1 or more jalapeños, seeded and chopped
salt and sugar for seasoning
# I figure about a total of 28 to 29 oz. of liquid is needed. So keep a rough tally of sauce, juice from the canned tomatoes, and liquid used to cook the pork and potatoes.  (See more about this below.)

shredded pork stew

The recipe I’m riffing on (not quite ripping off) doesn’t say anything about trimming fat off the pork. But I do take some of it off.

In a soup kettle, simmer pork, marjoram, thyme, and bay leaves in 4 cups of salted water, partially covered, until meat is tender: about 45 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a plate; let it cool enough so you can tear it into smaller pieces. If you haven’t removed any fat from the pork, skim the fat from the pork broth. Since I do remove some of the fat, I don’t bother to skim. Reserve the pork broth.

Boil the potatoes in the water used for the pork until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.

In a wide skillet or a large wok, heat the oil. Add the sausage and stir over moderately low heat, breaking it up, until cooked through: about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the pork and onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until well browned and somewhat dried out: about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and sausage and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes and enough pork broth to keep it moist, and if you’re using jalapeño, add that as well. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chipotle chilis in adobo sauce.  Season with salt and a pinch of sugar and serve.*

Serve with tortillas, sliced avocado, red onion, sour cream.  It also goes well over rice.

* As I lament below about the chipotle and chorizo ingredients, you can’t always get what you want but you can get what you need.  For my most recent attempt at making this stew for friends, I wanted to use dried cascabel chilis, a Christmas gift from my son and his wife, to create the substitute for the chipotle.  These cascabels were on the mild side with a smoky, almost fruity taste.

I removed the seeds, tore the casings of 5 chilis into small pieces, and placed them in a skillet to toast, being careful not to burn them.  I then added the chili pieces to 16 oz. of commercial steak sauce (I added no additional salt or sugar) and simmered for about 30 minutes.  I added about 8 oz. of the sauce and 1/4 cup of the liquid I had used to cook the pork and potatoes to the stew.

The entire dish was prepared a day in advance to give the flavors a chance to meld and to see if additional liquid would be needed.  On the day I was to serve the dish, I added a couple of tablespoons of the liquid and 1/4 cup of the sauce.

Background: The original recipe is called “Pork Tinga,” and while it’s shredded like tinga should be shredded, I’ve substituted so many ingredients that I don’t think my recipe deserves a title more grand than just “shredded pork stew.”   But after visiting three stores in my (somewhat rural) neighborhood in search of chipotle chiles in adobo and chorizos, I figured, what the hell, I’d make do with what was available.

I’m sharing this recipe not only because it’s tasty and relatively easy, but also to promote innovating on a basic recipe.  I used to be a stickler for following recipes, making sure I had each of the ingredients specified.  If I couldn’t find each and every one then I didn’t make the dish.  I would spend time locating specialty items that were often costly, sometimes not fresh or not the best quality.  While some dishes might require the specific ingredients, stews and soups are forgiving.  At least shredded pork stew seems to be.

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