It’s funny, when I make up a dish, I don’t really think of it as a recipe. I was watching the Superbowl with a couple of friends the other night and I told them how I’d cooked a pork shoulder roast that afternoon even though I knew I wasn’t going to be home that evening. It just feels wrong not to have something cooking on a Sunday afternoon (and leftovers are what I live on all week). I was saying that I’d sort of crossed the Italian pork braised in milk technique with something Southwestern-y because a girlfriend sent me a big bag of delicious New Mexico Chile. Deb wanted the recipe, so I told her I’d try to write it down.
When I had my pig butchered I had Matt cut the pork shoulders into small roasts — about a pound and a half probably. I started by salting and peppering the meat then browning the roast on all sides in my Le Crueset. When it was done browning, I deglazed the pot with about a cup of white wine, then sprinkled each side with a heaping soupspoon of New Mexico red chile, medium hot. My friend Debra from Tucson bought me half a pound of chile from an old woman when she was in Santa Fe this fall, and it’s lovely. Fruity and warm, not hot, but just delicious. Because it was the end of the week I had nearly a quart of Isabelle’s good milk from her Jersey cows leftover, so I poured that over the meat, then added 2 bay leaves, six or seven cloves of garlic, the zest of half an orange and a generous sprinkling of oregano (from last summer’s garden). I put the whole thing in the oven at 250 degrees and left it there while I went off to watch the Superbowl.
When I came home that evening, my house smelled lovely. I put the pot of pork out in the cold frame for the night, then last night I reheated it. Like all braises, it was even better for having sat overnight. I defatted it as much as I could, then when it was time to serve, I pulled the meat out, removed the bay leaves, then emulsified the sauce with my stick blender. When you braise pork in milk, the milk proteins separate out and it can look a little funky. But once you whiz it up, you get a nice smooth gravy I suppose. I don’t really come from a gravy people, so I’d never thought of it that way, but that would be what we’re dealing with. Slow cooked pork like this is delicious over rice with chopped scallions and some cilantro. It also makes a terrific taco or burrito for lunch. I’ll put about half of it in the freezer for later, and will eat pork with chile in many forms for the rest of the week. My favorite kind of recipe, when you look around your kitchen or pantry and start thinking, hmm, these might be good together. Pork, chiles, orange, garlic and a nice winey, creamy sauce. What’s not to like?