Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cuban-esque Spicy Pork Stew with Arroz con Gandules

(The finished dish)

It is yet another rainy, cold, dreary day in New Jersey today – the northeast is getting battered with yet more rainstorms.  I was craving some serious comfort food but something different, tasty and yet not full of the typical culinary badness that most serious comfort food has to make it comforting.
I did some research and found a few recipes for a Cuban style pork stew.  A typical "Guiso de Carne de Puerco"/ "Fricasse de Puerco" has as many variations as does any culture’s basic meat stew so I took a few elements from a number of recipes and came up with my own variation.
I like to serve it with Arroz con Gandules (which I know is a traditional Puerto Rican dish)
Time-saving tips:  I cook the dish in my electric skillet and make the rice in my rice cooker.
Cuban-esque Spicy Pork Stew with Arroz con Gandules
2 large pork tenderloins, cubed (about 3 lbs)
2 onions, sliced
3 bell peppers (I used red and yellow) chopped roughly
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cans (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes with zesty jalapenos
1 jar of Goya Alcaparrado (a mixture of olives, capers and pimentos) drained
1 tablespoon of dried cumin
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of hot paprika
1 tablespoon or red pepper flakes
1 cup of red vermouth (or sherry)
1 cup of chicken stock, low sodium, fat-free
1 cup of beef stock, low sodium, fat-free
Zest of 1 cara orange (any orange is fine – cara is a type of navel orange)
Juice of 2 cara oranges (any orange is fine – cara is a type of navel orange)
Juice of 1 lime
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup marsala or sherry
1.       Season pork liberally with salt and pepper.
2.      Brown quickly in a bit of olive oil until no longer pink – but not cooked through.  It should be quite raw.  Remove from pan and set aside.
3.       Add onions, peppers, garlic, sweet potatoes and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant.
4.      Add tomatoes, Alcaparrado, spices, vermouth and stock and bring to a simmer.
5.      Add the zest of one orange and the juice of one orange to the pan and cover.  Cook until sweet potatoes are almost cooked through about 10 minutes.
6.      Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of one lime and the juice of one orange over the pork and set aside.
7.      Once sweet potatoes are almost done, add pork to the pan and top with chopped cilantro.
8.      Simmer for about 20 minutes until the pork is cooked through.
9.      Serve as is over rice or thicken the sauce slightly if desired.
To thicken sauce, bring stew to a boil and add in 3 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed in some marsala or sherry.  Cook a few minutes until thickened and then serve with rice.
(Arroz con Gandules in the rice cooker)

GOYA Arroz con Gandules
I use my rice cooker for this and it works fine – but traditionally it is done on the stovetop.
If using a rice cooker – just put everything in the pot and turn it on – done!
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ lb. country ham, cubed (I omitted the ham when I made it with this dish)
½ red bell pepper, chopped (about ½ cup)
½ yellow onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
2 packets Sazón GOYA with Coriander and Annatto
1 tbsp. Minced Garlic
2 cups rice (I prefer and used Japanese short grain but medium grain is traditional)
1 can (15 oz.) GOYA Green Pigeon Peas
4 oz. GOYA Tomato Sauce
Heat oil in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ham to pan; cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in peppers and onions; cook, stirring occasionally, scraping up brown bits from bottom, until vegetables are soft and translucent, 10 minutes. Add sazón, garlic, cilantro and oregano. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add rice to pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until coated in oil and toasted, about
1 minute. Stir in pigeon peas, tomato sauce and 1½ cups water; using a wooden spoon, stir once and bring rice mixture to a boil. Cook, uncovered, until water is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Gently stir rice from bottom up.
Lower heat to medium low and cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. Gently fluff rice with fork. Cover pan and let stand 10 minutes.
Cooking Tip:
The crust of rice that forms on the bottom of the pot is a delicacy referred to in Puerto Rico as pegao. Once the rice is served, the pegao is scraped out and distributed as a treat.
To achieve the perfect crust – caramelized and crunchy, but not burnt –once the water has evaporated, scrape the bottom of pan with the wooden spoon, making sure to dislodge any stuck bits [Step 2]. This will prevent the rice from burning. Then, allow the rice to cook over medium-low heat, and refrain from shaking the pot or lifting the lid. This will ensure an even distribution of heat on the bottom of the pot, which, in turn, allows the perfect pegao to form.

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