Chipotle Pork

I’m meeting up with a friend later today for a long overdue movie date, and I’m so excited for a little girl time! We’re finally going to see The Hunger Games, and though I’ve heard some mixed reviews, I have high hopes. I literally read the entire first book in 2 days a few months ago, I couldn’t put it down. It consumed me so completely that I still haven’t touched the second and third books in the series for fear I will do nothing but sit on the couch for days tearing through them. And since I have the worst memory in the world, I’ve now forgotten half of what happened in the first book so I’ll have to go back and reread that before I can move on. Later this summer we’re road tripping to Canada and I’m thinking all of that time in the car will provide the perfect opportunity to find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta…

Chipotle Pork

Anyway, I guess you probably want to know about this pork :)

Pulled pork is one of those meals Shane and I both love equally, and would probably be happy eating 4 or 5 nights a week. I generally only make it in the winter, buying a huge pork shoulder and letting it cook all day in the slow cooker. It’s a no fuss meal that makes tons of leftovers which happen to freeze perfectly, what’s not to like? It had never occurred to me to cook a smaller pork shoulder – one that would only feed us for a meal (or maybe two at most). I know that sounds silly, but most recipes call for a large piece of meat, and the ones at the store are always so big – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pork shoulder smaller than 4 or 5 pounds. Recently I came across this recipe for chipotle pork in an issue of Cooking Light though, and my eyes were opened.

The recipe calls for just 1 1/4 lb of pork shoulder, which of course I couldn’t find, so I bought a larger one and cut it in 3 pieces, sticking the extra 2 in the freezer for another day. The pork is marinated in a combination of sweet, spicy and smoky flavors, then quickly browned on the stove top and cooked for a few hours until it’s so tender it falls apart; it could not be easier. You could probably even throw it in your slow cooker if you didn’t feel like having the oven on for hours, especially as the weather heats up. The pork turned out really flavorful and juicy; Shane was content to eat it on its own. I found some queso blanco and lettuce in the fridge that desperately needed to be used so I added those to the mix and made some homemade tortilla chips to throw on the plate too. It wound up being a pretty fantastic combination, if I do say so myself :)

Chipotle Pork
from Cooking Light, April 2012

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 large garlic cloves, peeled
3 chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce
1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/4 lb boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed of excess fat
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Combine the onion, honey, cumin, cinnamon, garlic and chiles in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until well combined – the onion, garlic and chiles should be finely chopped. Peel the lime, then, working over a bowl to catch the juices, section the lime (if you’ve never sectioned a citrus fruit, there’s a video here explaining the process). Add the lime sections and juice from the bowl you were working over to the food processor. Squeeze any remaining juice from the membranes into the bowl of the food processor too. Finally, add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the mixture and process until smooth.

Transfer the mixture to a resealable plastic bag. Add the pork, turning to coat. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to a small Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Remove the pork from the bag, reserving the marinade. Season the pork all over with salt then add to the hot pan. Brown on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the pork to a plate. Add the chicken broth and reserved marinade to the pan. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Add the pork back to the pan along with any accumulated juices on the plate. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender. (I checked mine every 45 minutes or so to ensure there was still enough liquid in the pan. I never needed to add any, but if you find the liquid has cooked off, add additional to the pan.) Remove the pork from the pan and shred into bite-size pieces. Add back to the pan and toss to coat with the sauce.