Friday, November 12, 2010

Nopalitos con Puerco

Hank and I don't eat out very often, but when we do I'm always looking to try a new-to-me dish or unique combination. I spotted nopalitos on the menu at Gonzalez, one of our favorite spots in town for Tex-Mex. It listed the option to add carne de puerco and I went for it... who could turn down a chance to add pork?

The restaurant version was good- nice and spicy with a great flavor but I thought the meat was lacking. I knew this dish had potential, I love the subtle flavor of the nopales but I wanted big chunks of flavorful, tender pork- and definitely a greater meat to cactus ratio. I knew I had to recreate this dish at home to do the idea justice. Here is my version, full of melt in your mouth pork stewed with onion and garlic mixed with little bits of nopalitos. It's the perfect comfort food served with warm flour tortillas and charro beans.

Nopalitos con Puerco
(printable recipe)

2 1/2 lbs. boneless country style pork ribs
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 serranos, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. comino
dash of pepper
1/2 c chicken stock
4 small cactus pads or 2 c canned nopalitos, drained & rinsed

Trim the pork of any cartilage and excess fat. Cut into large chunks, about 1" x 2" thick.
Saute the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add peppers and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Add the pork and seasonings, browning on all sides. Add the chicken stock to de-glaze the pan. Cover and simmer on a medium-low heat for 2 hours until the pork is tender. Check periodically and add a little water if it seems dry.

To prepare the cactus, run the pads over a flame to remove the needles. Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to remove the nubs. Rinse and then chop into small chunks. It will be very slimy, boil the cactus for about 5 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water. If you are not able to locate fresh cactus you can also used canned, it is typically packed in water, you will need about 2 cups, drained.

Once the pork is cooked through and tender remove the cover and add the nopalitos, warm through and reduce the sauce by cooking on low, about 5 minutes. Serve with fresh tortillas and charro beans.

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