Saturday, December 13, 2008

insanely delicious soup

It's really too late to be writing this up, but I don't want to forget this recipe, and it's already fading.

On Thursday, I put about 12 pounds of pork butt (one of the big packages from Sam's Club, two big hunks of meat) into the counter top roaster oven. I slathered them with a generous amount of salt, Hungarian sweet paprika, and molasses, poured in a little water, and slapped the cover on. I set the temperature for 275 degrees (not a typo) and let it cook undisturbed for 10 hours.

That's how I make my version of pulled pork, which it turns out is much closer to carnitas, although carnitas aren't made with paprika and molasses. I don't care, it tastes great. It takes me approximately 5 minutes of prep time, and then DH spends about an hour "de-goo-ing" it, because he doesn't like the fatty globs or particularly tough bits of connective tissue that may be left. I don't, either, but I'm not as gung-ho about getting rid of it as he is. We get about 5 meals out of it, so there's a very good meals-to-work ratio.

By the time the meat is done, there's about 8 cups of dark brown cooking liquor in the bottom of the roaster. We pour that off into a large container and refrigerate it over night, to make disposal easier.

Friday morning, I was cleaning out the fridge and hauled out that container. I skimmed off the 2-inches of pure white fat from the top. (I pitched it, lacking anything productive I could do with it.) Beneath that layer was a cola-brown aspic that smelled too delicious to throw out, so I didn't. I made soup with it.

Now most Green Chili Pork recipes start with raw cubed pork and work from there. I already had this fabulous liquor that I wasn't about to squander, not to mention plenty of pulled pork. So I made a few notes of the spices most recipes had in common, and came up with a soup that uses the same method as my Easy Chicken Soup.

Green Chile Pork Soup
(could be a stew if you don't add as much liquid)
8 to 10 servings, depending on appetite

Pot liquor from pulled pork, about 8 cups, de-fatted
1 small onion, diced (we are not big onion people. You could definitely use more onion if you like that taste)
6 garlic cloves, whole
1 large bay leaf
4-6 stalks celery, chopped into bite-size pieces
3-4 carrots, chopped into bite-size pieces
~ 1-2 tsp ground cumin (to taste)
~ 1 T Mexican oregano
~ 1 T chili powder
2 4 oz cans green chilis
6-8 Campari tomatoes, quartered
12 oz cauliflower florets, bite-sized (I used a bag from Trader Joe's) (you could use potatoes instead)
12 oz carnitas (pulled pork)
optional thickener: 2 tsp xanthan gum OR 6 T flour or cornstarch

Prep note: when preparing the onion, carrot, celery, and cauliflower, it doesn't matter how big (or how small) you make the pieces, just be consistent. You want all the carrots to be the same size so they'll cook at the same rate, ditto the onion, celery and cauliflower. The onion, celery, cauliflower, and carrots do not have to be the same size as each other, just realize that bigger carrots are going to take a longer time to cook, and if you have small pieces of celery or onions, they may disintegrate into the soup entirely. For some of us, that's not a bad thing at all.

1. Heat the pot liquor just until it's liquefied again. Strain it to remove the remaining bits of goo and other things you don't want in the soup.

2. Return the stock to the heat, add the bay leaf, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the carrots are tender.

3. Stir in the green chilis and the spices. The measurements are approximate, as I just sprinkled and stirred and smelled and tasted. Also, my cumin was in one of those cellophane bags (approximate cost: 79 cents) and I wasn't so careful pouring out of the bag. (I do recommend those spice bags, if you have them in your supermarket. Spices can be cheap, little glass bottles are always pricey.)

4. Stir and taste and adjust the seasoning. I did not need to add any salt as I always salt the meat generously when I'm slow cooking it. You might start with half the smallest listed amount and go up from there. The pot liquor I used is very flavorful and can stand up to a lot of spices. If you use chicken stock, you're not going to need as much.

5. Stir in the tomatoes, cauliflower, and meat. Simmer another 5-6 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.

6. Whisk in the thickener of your choice -- I used xanthan gum, it's low carb and as long as you sprinkle in tiny amounts at a time, it doesn't clump. (I use a tiny sifter to add it to the pot bit by bit.) You could also make a slurry of cornstarch and water, or flour and water, and whisk it in to thicken it up a bit. Or you could just leave the liquid thin. We liked it thickened up just a bit, the way Hot & Sour Soup is served.

You could grate some cheese into this, it would be nice. We just ate it straight with tortilla chips. It is spicy but not hot, and has layers of flavor thanks to the great paprika/molasses base, then the onions/garlic/celery/carrots, then the green chilis, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. It is of course loaded with veggies, and as it's based in a "bone broth" it could not possibly be better for you... or me.

DH and I have now had this for dinner two nights running, and I also had it for lunch today. I'm now kicking myself for all the other times I made my "pulled pork" and just threw out the wonderful pot liquor. At least I finally came to my senses.

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