There can definitely be a huge downside to being a food blogger. When you have to write a blog post about a recipe that turned out particularly well, like this Five Spice Pork Stew, but the last batch you made is gone already? It’s a sad thing, let me tell you.
Fortunately, this dish is particularly easy to make, and doesn’t require any difficult to find ingredients. If you have never used Chinese Five Spice before, you might think it will be hard to lay your hands on some, but that is not the case. A lot of supermarkets carry it these days, and if yours doesn’t, then look for it online – there are tons of places that carry it, and it’s not at all expensive. I got mine at Great American Spice Company [I do blog for them sometimes, but I’ve been buying their five spice for years]. I suppose each company has it’s own exact formula, but they usually contain a mixture of cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise and white pepper. I have seen other mixtures, but I think this is the most common one. It goes really well with pork, and gives this stew a rich background flavor that is almost indefinable, but is intensely satisfying.
This truly is an accidental recipe, because the first time I made it, Five Spice Powder ended up in here only because the color so closely resembles cumin and I was in a hurry. By the time my nose told me it wasn’t cumin, it was already mixed in, and there was no going back. Right from the start, I knew it was the good kind of accident that happens sometimes, because it smelled so amazing while it was cooking. Making it again was definitely on purpose, and it has since found a secure spot in our dinner rotation.The pork I use in this comes from the shoulder – the same cut you might use for pulled pork, but in a bit more accessible form. In most parts of the country, you can buy “Country Ribs”, which are really just pork steaks cut in half the long way. You don’t have to deal with a huge hunk of meat that way, and it is usually cheaper per pound than buying a whole pork shoulder. They used to be sold as pork steaks, so you might find them that way too. Don’t use the loin or regular pork chops, because they will get tough and dry – you need that darker meat, with a bit of fat marbled through it.I use my enamel over cast iron brazier pan to cook this in – a most useful item. I’m not sure how I once lived without it to be honest – I use it a lot for all sorts of things. Mine is similar to this one, though I think I got mine at a thrift store maybe. A 12 inch cast iron skillet with a lid would work as well [yeah, I know they say not to cook tomatoes in them, but I do it all the time – just make sure it is well dried and oiled afterward], or a roasting pan.
- 1 & ½ pounds pork Country Ribs
- olive oil
- kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
- 2 Anaheim or Poblano chilies, seeded, cut in 1 inch chunks
- 2 large or 4 small garlic cloves, cut in thin slices
- 2 cups stewed tomatoes, pulverized in the blender
- 2 cups chicken stock, divided
- 1 & ½ teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 & ½ pounds potatoes, peeled, cut in large chunks
- 5-6 large carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
- fresh cilantro
- Set the oven at 400º to preheat.
- Trim excess fat from the pork and cut into large chunks - about 2 inches square.
- Heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron brazier [see blog post for detail]. Dry surface of pork well, and sprinkle generously with the salt and pepper.
- Brown evenly in the hot oil, but don't overcrowd the pan. Don't turn it too often or mess with it a lot - let it alone so it can develop some nice color on it. You might need to do this in two batches to ensure it gets well browned.
- Add the onions and peppers, and let them cook for about 5 minutes, until they start to take on some color.
- Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
- In a medium bowl, combine the tomato, 1 cup of the chicken stock, the five spice, cumin and smoked paprika, then pour the mixture carefully over the pork.
- Bring up to a simmer, and then place in the preheated oven.
- Lower heat to 350º
- Cook in the oven for about 90 minutes, until pork is very tender.
- Carefully add the potatoes and carrots, along with some more of the stock - up to another cup, so that liquid about ½ fills the pan around the meat and vegetables.
- Cook another 30 minutes or so, until vegetables are done.
- Stir in some torn cilantro leaves, and sprinkle some on top as well.
- Serve in shallow bowls, with a bit of butter to round out the flavors.
It is perfect for these chilly evenings we are still having – and because you can leave it braising in the oven while you are out weeding the garden and getting some other spring chores done.Heaven.