I've decided that I love combining my favorite method of cooking (braising) with my other favorite method of cooking (smoking). Many thanks to dls1, Moikel, and Chef JimmyJ for inspiration and technical support on the smoke + braise process.
This weekend I adapted a Rick Bayless recipe (Tomatillo Pork Braise with Pickled Chiles) to use a couple of hours of smoking first, and then finish by braising.
I actually started this recipe last weekend, because it calls for pickled jalapenos. Since it is the peak of the season for local peppers, I thought it would be fun to can my own pickled hot peppers and then use those for making this recipe. I just followed the recipe for Pickled Hot Peppers from the Ball Blue Book, and ended up with 5 pints of these to get me through the winter....
Whew! Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
Then this morning, I took a 2 lb deboned pork butt and cut it into 2" sections. I seasoned these with salt and pepper, and smoked them at 180 deg F for about 2 hours using a mix of oak and orange pellets. I didn't smoke the pork to any particular IT, I just wanted to give it some good smoke flavor and not render off any fat. While the pork was smoking, I chopped up 1 1/2 lbs of husked and rinsed tomatillos, 3 garlic cloves, about 1/3 cup of seeded pickled hot peppers, and a handful of chopped cilantro.
On top of the vegetables I put the smoked pork. Nice color on it from the smoker.
I sprinkled around 1 Tbsp of worcestershire sauce over the pork, then covered tightly and braised in a 300 oven for about 2 1/2 hours until the pork was fork tender. I flipped the pork pieces over a few times while braising. You could also do this in a slow cooker on high, just go for longer. Amazing how much liquid those tomatillos put out.
After the pork was tender, I pulled it out of the braising dish and set it aside. I pureed the braising liquid with some extra cilantro using an immersion blender. I combined chunks of the pork with 2 cans of Great Northern beans, and then added enough braising liquid to give it a good texture. I only used about 1/2 of the braising liquid, I thought it would be too liquidy if I had added more.
Here is a closeup of the finished dish along with a little more cilantro. I'm going to let it rest overnight to meld the flavors, and will serve it tomorrow night for dinner.
The flavor profile is very good...smokey, meaty, tart, spicy....quite complex. Those who like spicy food would probably want more pickled hot peppers in there, but they can always be added as a condiment when serving. Two hours of smoke on the pork provides a good level of smoke flavor for my taste. I haven't tried this recipe as written (without the smoking step), but the smoking adds some flavor depth that I think the dish really benefits from. Thank you to Rick Bayless for a tasty recipe!
Thank you for looking at my post! I hope that everybody has a great Labor Day Weekend!