Monday, September 27, 2010

Heirloom Foods: Daniel's Pork Stew with Guajes, Puebla Style

Daniel's pork stew with guajes, Puebla style, Sept. 2010.






In a previous Heirloom Food column, I reported on my friend Daniel's guajes harvest.  Today I want to give you part 2 of that report... eating the guajes!  Daniel was generous enough to share the recipe and to provide background information on guajes, as well as an account of how he started growing and cooking with guajes.  So without further ado, I turn the blog over to guest columnist Daniel Marlos, aka The Bug Man


Editor's Note: My father and I joined Daniel for a meal of Pork Stew with Guajes a few days ago, and we both thought the stew was fantastic.  I took the photos that appear with Daniel's column on that day and I look forward to trying this recipe again, although sadly I will probably make it without the guajes.


Pork Stew with Guajes, Puebla Style
By Daniel Marlos (as learned from Pedro José Lopez)

I learned to cook this savory pork stew by watching José, who grew up in the Mexican state of Puebla, but since he didn’t really leave a recipe nor did the family members he watched preparing the meal, I cannot vouch for the authenticity.   Additionally, exact quantities often didn’t get measured by José or his family, and I have continued that tradition.  I cook this pork stew now in the late summer when the Guajes ripen on my trees and using the tomatoes and jalapeños from the garden.

Guajes are the pods from a
Leucaena tree and it is sometimes possible to find them in Mexican markets, but one can never depend upon their availability.  One summer, many years ago, José bought the pods in a Highland Park, Los Angeles market and dried a few of the pods.   Later, he planted a few of the seeds in pots.  After they sprouted, he planted them in the ground in the back yard, and those trees were the only things he ever planted in the garden.  Guajes are indigenous to the state of Puebla, and preparing food with the subtly garlicky seeds probably made José nostalgic for home the same way that eating them now makes me nostalgic for his cooking.

Guajes are time-consuming to clean.  When the pods are ready, they must be split apart and the tiny green seeds are removed.  Start with a bunch of ripe Guajes pods and remove the seeds, discarding any that are brown or hosting the grub of a weevil.  You should have about a cup of seeds when you are finished.









Pork Stew with Guajes, Puebla Style

Pork Stew on Daniel's stove (in Martha Stewart cast-iron pot), Sept. 2010.


Ingredients for Pork Stew
  • 2 pounds of pork stew meat (trocitos de Puerco)
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • salt to taste (optional)
  • Enough water to cover pork in stew pot
Pork for stew should be boiled for several hours to ensure that it is tender.  I use a Martha Stewart 7 quart enamel covered, cast iron Dutch oven, but any stew pot should suffice.  The pork should be a single layer in the bottom of the pot. Cover the pork with about an inch of water and boil for several hours.  When the pork is tender, much of the water should have boiled away and the tops of the chunks of pork should be just breaking the surface of the water.  Add more water if needed.
  

Ingredients for Guajes Salsa
  • 3 Jalapeños
  • 6 tomatoes
  • I cup of cleaned guajes seeds toasted
  • Water to puree
  • Salt to taste
While the pork is cooking, prepare the salsa.  The salsa is a basic jalapeño and tomato salsa to which the guajes are added.  The exact ratio of jalapeños to tomatoes is dependant upon the heat of the peppers and the size of the tomatoes and the palette of the diners.  There are no rules, but an approximate ratio of two tomatoes to one pepper is a good place to start.

Boil the jalapeños and tomatoes together until the skins on the tomatoes split.  Let cool in the water.  Meanwhile toast the guajes.  I use a dry cast iron skillet over a medium heat.  The guajes will swell and begin to pop, indicating that they are ready.  Be careful not to char them too much, though slight charring will add a smoky flavor.  Remove stems from jalapeños and skin the tomatoes.  Put jalapeños, tomatoes and guajes in the blender and puree with enough water to make a thick salsa.  Some guajes seeds will remain whole.  Add the salsa to the boiled pork and cook covered over medium to low heat another hour.   Serve over Spanish rice with steamed zucchini and tortillas.


Daniel's Spanish Rice, September 2010.
Ingredients for Spanish Rice
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 tablespoon corn oil
  • diced tomatoes
  • one or two ears of corn kernels cut from the cob
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups water
Brown the rice in oil in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  When the rice is brown, add the diced tomatoes which will sizzle.  Add corn kernels, cumin, salt and water. Bring to a boil and stir. Reduce heat and cook covered until water is absorbed and rice is tender.



Traditional Side Dishes
  • Steamed Zucchini or Green Beans
  • Corn tortillas, warmed in cast iron skillet
Just before serving the meal, steam zucchini slices or green beans.  Serve pork stew over rice in a bowl and top with steamed vegetables.  Enjoy with corn tortillas.

This dish may be prepared without the guajes by adding a few cloves of garlic to the boiling pork. It is not the same, but it is nonetheless delicious.  Beef or Chicken may also be substituted for the pork.



Daniel's Italian zucchini, seeds provided by Luca Loffredo, September 2010.
Editor's Note:  Daniel also grows his own peppers, tomatoes and zucchini.  The zucchini is an Italian variety started from seed given to Daniel by Luca Loffredo, a wonderful chef and photographer (who also happened to take my profile photo for this blog.)