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Milk Street: La Cocina de Puerto Vallarta (Ep 519)

Colima-Style Shredded Braised Pork Start to finish: 53⁄4 hours (40 minutes active)
Servings: 8

The state of Colima on the western coast of Mexico is home to the pork dish called tatemado de Colima. Dried chilies, spices and aromatics, all blended to a smooth puree, are key flavorings, but a defining ingredient, other than the pork itself, is vinegar. In her version, recipe writer Paola Briseño González uses a generous amount of smooth-tasting, subtly sweet coconut vinegar, a common ingredient in the coconut-producing region of Colima, and after slow-cooking the pork, she shreds the meat and mixes it with the braising liquid. The flavors are rich and porky but deliciously balanced by the tangy vinegar and fresh ginger, whose sharpness disappears into the mix. We adapted González’s recipe, and in doing so, found widely available rice vinegar to be a decent alternative to coconut vinegar. Traditionally, the pork is marinated, but we shortened this step to the time it takes the oven to heat (we braise in the oven, where the heat is steady and all- encompassing); we find that no taste is lost without a long marination, as the meat does a fine job of soaking up the seasonings after it is shredded. The meat is briefly broiled after braising to develop deep browning, so you will need a broiler-safe Dutch oven for this recipe. Serve the shredded pork with rice and beans, or make tacos with it, offering shredded cabbage, chopped onion and lime wedges alongside.

Don’t use an uncoated cast-iron Dutch oven, even if it is well seasoned. The acidity
of the vinegar may react with the metal, resulting in a tinny, “off” flavor. However, an enamel-coated Dutch oven is fine.

4 large (11⁄4 ounces) guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
5- to 7-pound bone-in pork butt or pork shoulder roast
2 cups coconut vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
1 cup coconut milk
1⁄3 cup roughly chopped peeled fresh ginger
9 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1⁄2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon white sugar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the chilies and enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high, pressing on the chilies to submerge them. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand until the chilies are fully softened, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, score the fat side of the pork roast with a 1-inch crosshatch pattern. Set the pork scored side up in a large Dutch oven.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chilies to a blender; discard the soaking water. Add the vinegar, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, bay, tomato paste, coriander, cumin, sugar, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the puree over the pork and rub it into the meat, then cover the pot.

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. When the oven comes up to temperature, place the pot in the oven and cook until a skewer inserted into the center of the pork meets no resistance, 41⁄2 to 51⁄2 hours.

Remove the pot from the oven and heat the broiler. Return the pot, uncovered, to the oven and broil until the surface of the pork is deeply browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the pork to a large bowl and set aside. Tilt the pot to pool the braising liquid to one side, then use a wide spoon to skim off and discard fat from the surface, leaving just a
couple tablespoons for flavor. You should have between 2 and 4 cups defatted braising liquid; if you have more than 2 cups, set the pot over medium-high, bring the liquid to a rapid simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 2 cups. Meanwhile, shred the pork into large bite-size pieces, discarding the bone and excess fat.

Return the shredded pork to the pot and stir to combine with the braising liquid. Cover and cook over medium-low, stirring occasionally, just until heated through, 5 to 8 minutes, then taste and season with salt and pepper.

Banana Custard Pie with Caramelized Sugar
Start to finish: 21⁄4 hours (40 minutes active), plus cooling
Servings: 8 to 10

Handmade, freshly baked pies sold by the slice are a specialty of the beach town of
Yelapa in Jalisco state on Mexico’s west coast. Inspired by those Yelapa delights, recipe writer Paola Briseño González created a simple, rustic banana custard pie with a sturdy, sandy-textured crust. We adapted her recipe, blending a banana into the custard mixture instead of only studding it with slices, for a creamy filling suffused with tropical flavor. As with most custard pies, this crust must be prebaked, so you will need pie weights for this recipe (about 2 cups works best to prevent shrinking and slipping during prebaking). And if you own a kitchen torch, this pie is a good reason to dig it out. It’s an optional step, but sprinkling the baked, cooled pie with sugar and brûléeing it until caramelized elevates the dessert, giving it a crackly-crisp surface and a lovely dappled look. Serve slices with lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream. Covered well, leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days (though if you caramelized the surface, the sugar crust will gradually soften).

Don’t use underripe bananas, but don’t use overripe ones, either. The bananas
should be ripe so they’re sweet and creamy but not so ripe that they’re brown and
mushy in texture. Don’t make the dough in advance. It’s easiest to work with when just
made. Also, don’t roll it too thin; aim for 1⁄4-inch thickness. If the dough tears when putting it into the pie plate, simply patch it; it’s very forgiving that way.

195 grams (11⁄2 cups) all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt, divided
57 grams (4 tablespoons) salted butter, cut into pieces
57 grams (1⁄4 cup) vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1 pound ripe but firm bananas
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1⁄4 cup whole milk
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
23 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar (optional, for caramelizing the surface)

Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle position. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center; set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, shortening and 1⁄4 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, stirring to melt the solids. As soon as they’re melted and the mixture is simmering, pour it into the well of the dry ingredients. Working quickly, stir with a silicone spatula until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened and without any dry patches; the dough will be very soft and resemble wet mashed potatoes. Turn it out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and, using your hands, form it into a 6- to 8-inch disk.

Cover the dough disk with another large sheet of plastic wrap and roll it into a 12-inch round of even thickness. Peel off the top sheet of plastic. Using the bottom sheet of plastic, carefully flip the round into a 9-inch pie plate, centering it as best you can. Ease the dough, still on the parchment, into the corners and up the sides of the pie plate. Carefully peel off the plastic. If needed, patch any tears in the dough. Trim the excess dough and flute or crimp the edge. Carefully line the dough with a large sheet of foil, gently pressing it into the corners and up the sides, then fill with about 2 cups pie weights.

Bake until the dough is set, about 20 minutes. Carefully lift out the foil with weights, then prick the shell all over with a fork to deflate any air bubbles and prevent additional ones from forming. Bake until the pie shell is lightly browned, another 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool until barely warm to the touch. Reduce the oven to 325°F.

Peel the bananas and slice them into 1⁄4-inch rounds. Lay as many slices in the pie shell as will fit in a single, tightly packed layer, then set the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the remaining banana slices to a blender along with the whole eggs plus yolk, milk, condensed milk, vanilla and the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth, 15 to 30 seconds.

Pour the mixture into the pie shell, taking care not to overfill it (some of the banana slices will rise to the surface); the pie shell may not hold all of the filling, depending on how much it shrank during prebaking. Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven
and bake until the filling is puffed, lightly browned at the edges and the filling jiggles only slightly when the pie plate is gently shaken, 55 to 65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

If caramelizing the surface, sprinkle the sugar evenly onto the cooled pie. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar until spotty brown. Serve within an hour, before the sugar crust softens. (The pie also is good served chilled, but if caramelizing the sugar, do so just before serving, as refrigeration will soften the sugar crust.)

Salsa Macha Costeña
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Makes about 3 cups

Salsa macha is a dark, thick, rich and nutty condiment. Its base is always oil, but the
combination of nuts, spices and dried chilies that give it character varies cook to cook. This version from Puerta Vallarta native Paola Briseño González is earthy, complex and mildly spicy—and delicious on just about anything, including scrambled eggs, quesadillas and grilled seafood. Cocoa nibs, an unusual addition, lend texture along with pleasantly bitter notes that perfectly complement the chilies and nuts. The salsa’s smokiness comes
from chipotle or morita chilies. Both are dried smoked jalapeños, but beyond that, there
seems to be little agreement about the exact differences between the two. Either will work
in this recipe, but steer clear of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. Feel free to use whatever type of unflavored peanuts you have on hand, whether they’re roasted or raw, salted or
unsalted. The salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to several months; bring to room temperature before serving.

Don’t use extra-virgin olive oil, as its flavor is too assertive. Rather, use regular olive oil or light olive oil, or even a neutral oil such as grapeseed. And don’t rush cooking the garlic, nuts and seeds. The goal is to coax all the oils, and flavors, from the nuts, seeds and chilies by slowly frying them in the oil.

2 cups olive oil (see headnote) or neutral oil
4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1⁄2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1⁄2 cup peanuts (see headnote)
3 tablespoons raw cocoa nibs
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
5 medium (11⁄2 ounces) guajillo chilies, stemmed, seeded and torn
into rough 2-inch pieces
2 (1⁄4 ounce) chipotle or morita chilies, stemmed, seeded and torn
into rough 2-inch pieces (see headnote)
2 (11⁄4 ounces) ancho chilies, stemmed, seeded and torn into rough 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Kosher salt
In a medium saucepan over medium, combine the oil and garlic and cook, stirring, until the oil starts to bubble, about 4 minutes. Add the almonds, peanuts, cacao nibs and sesame seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and nuts are fragrant and lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add all three chili varieties and cook, stirring, until they soften and brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the oregano and cool for 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a food processor (it’s fine if tiny bits remain in the oil) and add the vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt; reserve the oil. Process until the mixture is chopped, 30 to 60 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the oil
and pulse until the solids are evenly and finely chopped, about 4 pulses. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a container and use right away or cover and refrigerate for up to several months (bring to room temperature before serving).

Carne en su Jugo
Start to finish: 13⁄4 hours (45 minutes active)
Servings: 4 to 6

Carne en su jugo, or “meat in its own juices” translated from the Spanish, is from Jalisco
state on the west coast of central Mexico. It’s a stewy, brothy meal in a bowl that, as its
name suggests, derives its hearty, meaty flavor from beef simmering in the juices it releases as it cooks. Just a handful of other ingredients play supporting roles. The version of carne en su jugo shown to us by Paola Briseño González includes tangy, vegetal tomatillos and takes the unusual step of pureeing a little of the sautéed meat with the aromatics to add body to the broth. Commonly used cuts for the dish are flank and skirt steak, but we prefer boneless short ribs, as they contain the right amount of flavor- enhancing fat and pack tons of meaty richness. The beef is cut into small pieces before cooking; freezing it for a few minutes firms it up so it’s easier to slice. For convenience, we used canned pinto beans instead of starting with dried beans, and we add them near the end of cooking so they spend some time in the broth turning tasty without becoming too soft. Carne en su jugo loves garnishes. In addition to the ones called for in the recipe, we like to spoon on some salsa macha. It’s a non-traditional pairing but an incredibly delicious one.

Don’t use a Dutch oven, as the surface area is too wide. A large pot with a smaller diameter is the better choice. We intentionally crowd the beef in the pot so the meat readily releases its juices and the juices remain in the pot rather than cook off.

11⁄2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
11⁄2 pounds tomatillos, husked
1 medium white onion, half roughly chopped, half finely chopped, reserved separately
4 cups low-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 serrano chili, stemmed and thinly sliced, plus more to serve
Two 151⁄2-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh cilantro, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
Warmed tortillas, to serve

Place the beef on a plate and freeze, uncovered, until firm at the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove from the freezer and slice 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 inch thick against the grain. Now, cut the slices, stacking a few at a time, into small strips and bits (no need to be precise). In a medium bowl, toss the beef with the Worcestershire, soy sauce and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper; set aside at room temperature.

In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatillos and enough water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high, then reduce to medium and cook until the tomatillos are softened, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos to a blender; discard the water. To the blender, add the roughly chopped onion and 1 cup of the broth.

In a large pot over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the beef with its marinade and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat releases its juices and no longer is pink, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Measure 2 tablespoons of the meat and add to the blender, then blend on high until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the puree to the pot along with the remaining 3 cups broth, the bay and chili. Bring to a boil over medium-high and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender but not completely soft, 35 to 45 minutes (the best way to test doneness is by tasting a piece of beef).

Add the beans to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fully softened and the broth is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard the bay, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the finely chopped onion, sliced chili and cilantro; serve with lime wedges and tortillas.

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