Here’s an interesting combination of ingredients – pork, sweet potatoes and tomatillos plus poblano peppers. I had never heard of the vegetable, the tomatillo, until recently and decided to give this ingredient a try. Plus, sweet potatoes are in season in autumn and I always like to feature several recipes with this Louisiana agricultural product on my blog each year. The poblano peppers and tomatillos give just amount of “zing” to flavor the pork and sweet potatoes to make a really tasty stew.
Every time I went to the grocery store this summer, I saw some great looking tomatillos in the produce section just waiting for someone to purchase them. Eventually, I bought six tomatillos because who can pass up an interesting vegetable? I like to try out new ingredients although I really didn’t have any recipes in mind using tomatillos. Besides salsa verde, what do you cook with tomatillos? Fortunately, I stumbled across a recipe for pork stew which included both tomatillos and poblano peppers (which were growing in my garden this summer). I added a couple of sweet potatoes to the stew, too.
I’m making the recipe again this fall when Louisiana sweet potatoes are in season. This copper-skinned tuber is especially healthy — rich in Vitamin A precursor (B-carotene). When cooked properly, these potatoes have a delicate, sweet flavor.
Tomatillos have a tart and slightly acidic flavor which adds a unique “”piquant” kick to any dish. It is a common ingredient in the cuisine of Latin America. Spring and summer seems to be the best time to purchase tomatillos in grocery stores — at least in Louisiana. But you can still locate a few of this unique vegetable in the fall. For a little trivia, tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America, having been cultivated by the Aztecs as early as 800 B.C. And, so we are cooking with a vegetable with ancient origins here.
The tomatillo is a green-looking tomato which is enclosed in a paper-thin sack or husk. Take the sack off prior to cooking. If the vegetable is a little sticky, that’s okay. As it matures, the husk turns to a copper color and the tomatillo becomes sweeter. How do you use this vegetable? I found recipes which included tomatillos in sauces and stews. It was paired with everything from nachos, to enchiladas, eggs, chicken and pork concoctions. I learned that when included as a sauce or in a stew, that it makes a versatile addition to many dishes. (Whole tomatillos are here for decoration, only — the pulp is included in the stew.)
The seasonings in my recipe included variety of spices — I used cumin, oregano, garlic powder, bay leaves, salt and pepper. When the pork cubes, onions, fresh garlic, poblano peppers and tomatillos were simmered in chicken broth (and a little vinegar) along with the spices for several hours, the result was a savory stew. (I added the sweet potato cubes towards the end of cooking.)
To make the recipe, it is best to first broil the poblano peppers and tomatillos (with outer husk removed) until charred and blistered so you can easily slip off the skins. After broiling, dip in cold water and then remove the skins and chop up the pulp. (This step may be done a day ahead.)
For the pork, I used a flavorful cut of meat — a shoulder roast also called a “picnic roast” or “picnic shoulder roast.” The first time I made the recipe, I purchased pork already cut into cubes. The next time I purchased a boneless picnic pork roast and cut it up. It is a little work to cut it up yourself, but the pork shoulder is very full of flavor and I highly recommend going to the extra effort.
For the stew, I tossed the pork cubes in a seasoned flour, salt and pepper mixture and browned the cubes. Next, I removed the pork and sautéed the onions and fresh garlic. Then I added in the pork, chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients (except sweet potato chunks) and cooked for two hours.
This stew takes a couple of hours to cook so that the pork cubes become tender; let it simmer away on your stove for the afternoon. Add the sweet potatoes during the last half hour of cooking. There are several time-consuming steps at the beginning of the recipe (broiling the tomatillos and poblano peppers and cutting up the pork cubes) but then finishing the stew is easy — just add everything and let the stew simmer.
I served the stew with rice — this is a South Louisiana style of cooking.
This made a delicious stew — with lots of “zing.” I enjoyed using poblano peppers from my garden — while they lasted — and also Louisiana sweet potatoes. Add I learned about a use for a new vegetable — tomatillos. I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Pork, Sweet Potato & Tomatillo Stew
- 2 medium poblano peppers or 1 large pepper
- 6 tomatillos, husks removed (3/4 cup pulp)
- 3.2 lb boneless picnic pork shoulder roast
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 large onion, chopped (2-1/2 cups chopped)
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried ground oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 32 oz (4 cups) chicken broth or stock
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 lb sweet potatoes (2-3 large potatoes), peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
- cooked rice
Method and Steps:
- Arrange poblano peppers and tomatillos (with husks removed) on broiler pan and broil 6″ from heat, turning several times, until charred on all sides, about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove poblano peppers and tomatillos from broiler pan and dip in ice water. When cool enough to handle, slip off skins. Remove stems and seeds, chop pulp up and set aside. May be prepared a day ahead. (Store in refrigerator.)
- Cut up picnic pork shoulder roast into 1″ piece cubes, removing tendons and fat.
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil in heavy Dutch oven or heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
- Combine flour, salt and pepper. In batches, coat pork cubes in seasoned flour. Add to Dutch oven and brown on all sides. Remove to a small bowl, add more oil and repeat with additional pork cubes. Continue until all pork cubes are browned.
- Add onions to Dutch oven and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add minced fresh garlic and cook one additional minute.
- Return browned pork cubes to Dutch oven along with poblano and tomatillo pulp, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, chicken broth and vinegar. Bring to boil and then reduce heat on stove to low. Cover and simmer until the pork is tender, about 2 hours.
- Add peeled sweet potato chunks and cook an additional 30 minutes.
- Serve with hot cooked rice.