late-night chaos

When Jesse’s tired, he transforms:

and becomes very, very contrary.

It’s adorable (see above).

Since I started working the evening shift, I’m often not home before 12:30 AM. If left to my own devices, I’m in bed by10:30. I’m not a night owl. And as such, Jesse became accustomed, early on in our relationship, to allowing my circadian rhythms to tell him when he should be going lights-out, too. And now we have discovered that he can’t seem to put himself to bed without me.

Which results in adorable, illogical, and principled disagreements at 1 AM.

Case in point: last night, we dined at a local Mexican eatery at which I ended up a) picking a poorly executed chile relleno and b) getting glutenated. (How many times do I have to remind myself that even if I pick a dish that has never ever ever in the history of its creation EVER incorporated any wheat flour or involved batter and a deep-fryer, I must STILL ask if it’s safe?!) I lay in bed, lamenting my post-gluten condition and noted that the food wasn’t even that good. Jesse, charitable guy that he is, defended the quality of the grub, saying his pork in green sauce was actually pretty good. Well, I argued, pork is hard to screw up. I heard a cookbook author interviewed on The Splendid Table say that she estimates the skill of the chef and staff at a given restaurant based on how many pork dishes appear on a menu: it’s a culinary cop-out, she argued, because it’s so hard to flub.

And then it all just devolved.

Jesse: Well, I think in general a piece of meat like chicken breast is harder to fuck up than, say, brussels sprouts.

Annie: No way! I’ve had some dry nasty chicken breast in the past, and if you fuck it up, you’ve disgraced the chicken and it’s not worth eating. And if you do eat it, you don’t nearly get as much nutritional bang for your buck as if you were eating fucked-up brussels sprouts.

Jesse: Brussels sprouts are harder to cook!

Annie: What?! You can do anything with brussels sprouts! Saute, stir fry, roast in the oven–

Jesse: BUT FOR HOW LONG?!

Annie: *hysterical laughter*

Jesse: Can we at least agree that dishes with fewer ingredients are harder to fuck up than dishes with many ingredients?

Annie: No! If you get the balance of flavor and texture wrong in a dish with only three or four ingredients, there’s nothing else in the dish to compensate!

Jesse: You live in a world of chaos.

At this point I cracked up and threatened to blog our conversation. So here we are.

***

I think mole is the epitome of the a dish “with many ingredients,” as we discussed above. What the hell is it? What makes a mole? Wikipedia seemed to have rounded up as much free English information on mole that I could find scattered on the Web; it defines a mole as a “a thick, homogeneous sauce with complex flavors” and explains that the name comes from the Nahuatl “molli/muli,” which means “concoction” (guacamole, anyone?). So technically, one might consider the ubiquitous and flavorful red meat sauce found in many an Italian-American home a mole.

We non-Mexicans who have been at least initiated into that nation’s cuisine seem to picture mole poblano when we think about mole. Mole poblano incorporates dried chili peppers, nuts, dark spicy Mexican chocolate, other spices like cinnamon and Mexican oregano, onions, and additional ingredients like garlic, tomatoes, bananas, or whatever’s sitting on the counter threatening to go bad. It is complex. It is delicious. Tanya Steel egregiously names mole as the third most difficult dish to make in this article for Epicurious. Difficult? Not in a modern multi-appliance kitchen. Unless maybe if you grow and dry the peppers yourself.

The mole recipe I return to again and again involves the use of a food processor and a slow cooker. Here in the future in-laws’ home, I have access to both and am not afraid to use them. If you don’t, this dish could easily be replicated with mindful mincing and a few hours in a 300 degree oven. If you use a dutch oven whose lid seals well, you don’t even have to think about basting.

Molly’s Mole

This recipe comes from my friend Molly’s slow cooker cookbook, and I’ve adapted it heavily here. We both love it served with quinoa for the nutty compliment it gives.

Ingredients

2/3 cup whole raw almonds, toasted and chopped

2/3 cup raisins

3 Tbsp oil of choice, divided

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

3 – 4 pounds lean boneless pork shoulder (aka Boston butt)

1 can (14 ½ oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup cubed bread (GF for me!)

½ cup orange (or other citrus) juice

3 oz. Mexican chocolate or the darkest you can find (I used a Dagoba 87% cacao chocolate bar), broken

2 Tbsp chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped

1 tsp Mexican oregano

1 tsp kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

Coarsely chopped cilantro, cebollas encurtidos, cubes of avocado, or other desired tasty bits for serving

Method

Drop raisins in a bowl of hot water to plump.

Heat a heavy skillet (I heart my cast iron!) on medium-high; add some oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft and garlic is threatening to brown, about 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, oregano, and chipotles in adobo. Stir and cook another minute until fragrant. Drain the raisins; add them along with the almonds to the skillet. Cook for another minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add pork and brown on all sides.

While pork is browning, combine onion-seasoning-almond mixture with the diced tomatoes, chocolate, bread, and orange juice. Puree in a food processor or blender, in batches if necessary. Layer half of the sauce in a 6 qt slow cooker. Jam the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and pour the remaining sauce over the top. Cook on low for 6 hours or until pork shreds when you simply look at it.

Eat, and plan to have seconds.

Chaotically, if you live in my world.

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2 responses to “late-night chaos

  1. Again, I need to get myself a slow cooker. ASAP.

  2. Pingback: Mole a la Annie | The Table for One

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