Season’s Eatings

December 8th, 2010

Every December one of my favorite bloggers, Katie of Thyme for Cooking The Blog hosts a gift exchange between other foodies.  Katie lives in France and her followers are from all over the world.  Each of us is given a name of another participant and we are to send to them an herb or food item that is typical of the place that we live, along with a recipe or suggestion as to what to do with it.  We in return receive a food gift.  It is always so much fun to see what shows up on my doorstep.

This year I received this abundantly beautiful Ristra arrangement of drying chile pods.  It is not only an ongoing source of chilis to be picked, but it a beautiful addition to the kitchen decor.  I am looking for just the perfect spot to hang it.  It was sent to me by Dan who lives four miles from the Mexican border in El Paso Texas.  He does not have a blog but is known in his comments as Tiki Pundit.  Thank you Dan!  I love it.  If you would like to give a ristra to someone on your gift list go here for a good selection.

Dan sent me a recipe for New Mexico Red Chili which is a pork stew that uses lots of the chilis and is braised slowly to meld the flavors and render the pork succulently tender.  He also sent me directions on how to dry the pods to be used in the recipe.  The chili ristra’s pods were harvested in September and are not completely dried yet, so to use them in this recipe, the pods used had to be dried further in the oven.  Although it took me awhile in preparation, once this stew went into the oven, I could tell that it was worth the effort.  I used fewer pods than the recipe called for because I didn’t know how hot they were.  The recipe calls for 1 cup ground chilis.  I used 8 pods that I dried in the oven until they were crinkly dry and ended up with 1/3 cup of ground chilis.  It was perfect for us, although David felt it could have been a little hotter.  I served it with rice, but it would also be good in tortillas with sour cream and other Mexican condiments.


3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 medium onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
6 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds boned pork shoulder (butt), trimmed and meat cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup ground dried red New Mexico chiles (I used 8 pods seeds removed which yielded 1/3 cup when ground)
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, ovenproof pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions are golden, about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer onions and garlic to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, cumin, and pepper.  Add pork and toss to coat.  Return pot to medium-high heat, add remaining 1 tbsp. oil, and working in batches, lightly brown meat on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes per batch.  Transfer meat to a separate bowl as you go.

Return onions and garlic to pot.  Grind dried chile pods in a food processor.  Sprinkle onion mixture with ground chiles and cook, stirring, 2 minutes (mixture will be thick).  Add broth, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of pot.  Whirl sauce in a blender until smooth.  Return sauce to pot and add bay leaf and reserved pork.

Cover pot, put in oven, and cook 1 hour.  Set lid slightly ajar and cook until pork is fork-tender, about 1 hour more.  Remove bay leaf before serving.

Katie will be posting all of the Season Eatings blog posts sometime between Christmas and New Years.  I am anxious to see what my recipient did with her Key Lime Juice and Southern Pecans.  Season’s Eatings everyone!

Printable recipe

14 responses to “Season’s Eatings”

  1. racheld says:

    Oh, what a wonderful present, and what a memory you’ve kindled for me!!

    One year we raised those chiles, and way late in the season, when I thought everything had pretty much wound down, I went out and found the plants just hanging full of those shiny plump beauties.

    I remember it was a Sunday afternoon, and I had picked a big bucketful. I was back in the house, and had got out a skein of bright red yarn, and was tying them together with that over-the-fingers-loop on each stem, pulling them up into bundles just like yours, when my parents came in the door.

    They were so surprised and delighted with that pretty activity, we went back out and picked them ALL, and spent a couple of hours making those ristras, something none of us had done before.

    Daddy took quite a few as gifts to friends, and was SO proud of our special “craft” for the kitchens, and their friends seemed charmed to receive them. Ours and theirs hung in our kitchens for a long time, growing paler and flatter as they dried, and were such a lovely decoration.

    But I most remember that cold afternoon, no plans, just sitting by the fireplace stringing those beautiful chiles with my Mother and Dad.

  2. Penny says:

    Rachel, I loved reading your remembrance of making ristras. What a lovely project to share with your family. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. That is a perfect gift. Sadly, I was too caught up in Pomegranates to participate, but I love reading what everyone shows off with!

  4. Donnie says:

    That sounds like such a fun swap for all of you. That pork looks delicious. Can you substitute some other type of local chili powder for the fresh dried? I know it wouldn’t be the same though.

  5. Penny says:

    Donnie, You can buy dried chile peppers in the produce section. Get about 8, split them, remove the seeds and whiz them up in the food processor or blender. They give the chile the red color and I don’t think powdered chili would do the same thing.

  6. Rita says:

    Learning something new here today. We are not too used to eating spicy, but your recipe looks fantastic.

  7. This is a very neat swap! And your recipe sounds really delicious…I’d love to try it. Is this the same chile that you sometimes see in spicy Chinese food? I have bitten in to them before and it is quite a shock to say the least!


  8. Karen says:

    What a fun thing to do! The ristra is beautiful and red chili with pork is only 2nd to my favorite of green chile with pork! YUM!

  9. What a perfect gift for a foodie!!

  10. What a great gift Penny. Who wouldn’t love to receive a package of those lovely red chilis. I really like the idea of the gift exchange between foodies. Your key lime juice and southern pecans would be a welcome gift in anyone’s home as well.

  11. Barbara says:

    What a fun exchange, Penny! I love your red chilis…and what a super way to serve them. Yum..

  12. The gift exchange sounds fantastic! What a great surprise to receive something you’ve maybe never seen and have directions on how to utilize it! Awesome!!!
    Cheers! Leslie

  13. katiez says:

    Wow! What a great looking stew – and the ristra is lovely… as is the photo of your table setting. I’m still staggering over the 1 cup of chilis though… I think I would have started like you did and work my way up ;-))

  14. Susan says:

    Penny, I hope you can still receive this comment on this 4 year old blog. Thank you so much for pointing it out to me. I am anxious to try this stew. Looks and sounds delicious and yes, I think 1/3 cup of the ground chilies will be a good starting point. Susan

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