I first met Juana Perez when she came to work in our house in Cholula. Born and raised in the surrounding countryside, Juana was a fount of local folklore, insight and wisdom. She was never happier than when called upon to give a lesson or two in the kitchen. I would let her take over as she deftly roasted chiles and combined herbs and spices with no help from measuring spoons or cookbooks. I watched her, notebook in hand, trying to determine what exactly was a “pinch” of this or “three fingers full” of that. Juana not only cooked for her own large, extended family, but for local fiestas as well. Although many of her meals were meatless, this pork recipe stands out as a central Mexican classic, the kind of homey, comforting food that Mamá used to make. Cooking pork with greens is reminiscent of the same combination in southern United States cooking, although the tomatillos are distinctly Mexican. Purslane is both abundant and widely available in most of Mexico, but any other greens may be substituted.
Ingredients for the sauce::
- 4 cups water
- 1 pound tomatillos, husked
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- ½ medium white onion, peeled
- 4 fresh jalapeño chiles, seeded or not according to taste
- pinch of sugar
- salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Place all ingredients except the oil in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling. Continue cooking until the tomatillos are soft.
Allow mixture to cool slightly and puree in a blender until smooth.
Heat the oil, add the pureed ingredients, and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Ingredients for the stew:
- 2 tablespoons lard or corn oil
- 1½ pounds pork stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Maggi sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 sprig epazote
- ¾ pounds verdolagas or other greens, such as chard, cress, etc.
- salt to taste
- masa harina (corn flour) to thicken
In a large cazuela or Dutch oven, heat oil until very hot but not smoking. Add the pork and cook, stirring, until golden brown.
Add water to cover, Worchestershire, magi and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, lower flame, cover and simmer 1-1½ hours or until tender. This may also be done in a pressure cooker, following manufacturer’s instructions.
Once the meat is tender, add the green sauce (above) and the epazote and return to boil. Add the purslane or other greens, lower heat and simmer another 15 minutes, adding salt to taste.
Mix ½ cup masa harina with ½ – “/3 cup water to form a thick paste, and added to the stew little by little, stirring constantly, to thicken.
Serve in bowls, accompanied by hot tortillas.