Friday, April 30, 2010

Costilla de Puerco en Chile Verde Con Nopales (Mexican Pork Rib and Cactus Green Stew)

So again here in California this time of year Nopales are extremely plentiful, and we have more than we can handle. So here is yet another Mexican dish that uses "Nopales" (cactus or in this case cactus pads)

This is the green version of the red pork stew I posted a couple days back "Costillas de Puerco en Chile Colorado Con Nopales" Again this green sauce is one of the other what I call "master sauces" in Mexican cooking for stewing all sorts of meats, green enchiladas, even a base to make some really spicy hot sauces.

This is a very healthy dish to cook, it has lots of healthy greens, such as the cactus pads, green chili peppers and tomatillos, married with a little pork. You can eat this in a very simple humble fashion just a heaping bowl of this stew with some corn tortillas. If you wanna go a little further enjoy with some boiled or refried beans and if you wanna go all out make some Mexican red rice to go with it. The choice is yours.

Main Ingredients:
-4 lbs pork spare ribs cut into pieces
-salt & pepper to taste
-water (enough to barely cover)

Ingredients to prepare cactus
-15-20 cactus pads/ nopales, cleaned, and cut into medium strips/ julienned
-1/4 onion
-2 cloves garlic
-water (enough to submerge cactus pads)

Ingredients for the sauce:
-1 lbs. tomatillos or "tomatillo milpero" peeled (a tiny berry like variety of tomatillos)
-1/2 of a large onion
-3 cloves garlic
-4-6 or more Jalapeno or Serrano chilies (the spicier you want it the more you add)
-1 tablespoon chicken bouillon/ powder (optional)
-water as needed to make sauce

Ingredients to finish the dish:
-1 big bunch of cilantro, washed well, pat-dry and chopped coarsely


(1) Add pork ribs to a large pot, cover with water just enough to barely cover it, not submerged. Season liberally with salt and pepper and bring to a boil on high heat lower to medium high, leave it alone until all the water evaporates and it renders some fat then let it brown stirring occasionally in it's own fat.

(2) While pork is boiling, heat two pots with water, have your cleaned cut cactus and add it to a pot of boiling water with 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 onion and let boil uncovered 10 minutes, when done drain them and set aside, discard onion and garlic.

(3) However meanwhile, while waiting for cactus to be cooked prepare your sauce, bring water to a boil in small pot, add peeled washed tomatillos and green chilies, let boil for about 5-10 minutes until they change color.
(4) When tomatillos change color, add them carefully along with chilies into a blender, along with 1/2 raw onion, and 3 garlic cloves and chicken bouillon, blend in blender into a sauce, using the water you boiled the chilies in tomatillos in to help blend it all well, if you run out of that cooking liquid use regular water. You may or may not need to do this in batches
(5) By now your meat should have had all the water evaporate and it should be browned, if not just wait, but when all water is gone, let the pot with the ribs be scorching hot, and add the blended green sauce to the pot it will sizzle and bubble. Cover and lower heat to medium low, you may add more water depending on how thick or soupy you want your final dish, I like to have enough liquid to barely cover all the ingredients. Taste it for salt and add more if necessary, it's all to your taste. Allow pork to simmer about 20 minutes in sauce.
(6) When pork has simmered 20 minutes or is very tender add cooked drained cactus and allow to cook an additional 3-5 minutes.
(7) Turn off heat and stir in cilantro.
*This is actually a very simple dish, it really isn't hard at all, just a lot of multi-tasking, but comes together wonderfully and is almost a one pot meal, all you essentially need is some store bought fresh warm corn tortillas :)

*There are about 4 ways to make the green sauce, method one is grill and slightly blacken the tomatillos, chili peppers, 1/2 onion, and garlic cloves then proceed to blend everything and follow directions. The other method is blend everything raw since it goes into the sauce method two boil tomatillos and chilies then blend and proceed with making sauce method three blend everything raw together method four use any of the previous methods, except do not blend the onion or garlic, and instead saute minced onion and garlic with meat, then add the blended sauce prepared in any method. Depending on what method you use the taste is slightly different

*This dish can be cooked without the cactus, you can simply do the pork in the green sauce