Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spicy Pork and Mac Stew - Is it chili, or is it hot dish?

My mother was the queen of transforming leftovers into something that didn't look like leftovers. Sure, sometimes we had reheated reruns. But other times, it was alchemy.

Some might say it was her depression-era need to use every scrap of food. But really, I think it was everyday lack of funds that meant that dollars needed to be stretched.

I inherited some of that, I guess. I'm always looking at leftovers with an eye at making them something new and different. That's particularly true when it comes to roasts. As much as I like a perfectly-cooked pork or beef roast, they're usually a lot of food for two people. The price-per-pound is tempting, but the leftovers can be daunting.

A while back, I made a lovely pork roast ... but then what? After we'd eaten it sliced and as sandwiches, I knew it needed transformation. Mom's usual leftover pork dish was her chop suey, bolstered by canned Chinese vegetables and copious amounts of soy sauce. With rice on the side, that chop suey could stretch a humble pork roast for several days.

I actually considered chop suey, but decided to go with a spicier option. Some might call this chili, while others might be horrified at calling it chili. Some might call it hot dish (hello Minnesotans!) What it is, though, is a throwback to mom's chili mac - it's comfort food, pure and simple.

When I was done cutting up the roast, I had two pounds of diced meat in one pile, and some bones, bits, fat, and crusty parts that went into a saucepan with some water to make about a quart of pork stock that I used for soup.

See, nothing wasted!

You can make this as hot (or not) as you like by using mild, medium, or hot versions of the peppers and spices. Make it your way!

Spicy Pork and Mac Stew

2 pounds cooked pork shoulder roast, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-size cubes
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 15.5-ounce can red kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
1 10-ounce can Hatch diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 4-ounce can diced Hatch chilies
1 can beer* (I suggest something mild, like Corona or similar)
2 tablespoons Penzey's Chili con Carne spice (or chili powder)
2 tablespoons dry masa (maseca)
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
1 tablespoon** salt (or to taste)
4 ounces dry elbow macaroni, cooked al dente, drained

Put everything except the pasta into a slow cooker (yes, you can also cook this in a Dutch oven on the stove, if you like). Stir to combine and cook on high for 4 hours, or until the vegetables are cooked through.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed. If it's not spicy enough for you, add more chili powder.

Add the cooked pasta, and let the stew simmer for just a little longer, uncovered, to let the pasta soak up just a little of the sauce.

Serve hot.

You can garnish this with any of the things you like with chili - sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, or diced avocado are all wonderful.

*If you're not a beer drinker and you have no urge to buy beer just for this recipe, use water. There's enough flavor here that the beer won't be horribly missed.

** If your chili powder and adobo seasoning are heavy on the salt, hold back a little bit on the salt until you taste - you can always add more if you need it.