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Rick Bayless’ Authentic Pork Tinga

Photo Courtesy of Food and Wine Magazine

Do you have recipes that sit there tempting you but that look too winter-y when you discover them on the first warm day of Spring?  That’s what happened to me with Rick Bayless’ flawless recipe for Pork Tinga.  But the other day, I was going to be farther over on the West Side than usual and decided to make a pilgrimage to Esposito Pork Shop to get what I needed to make the dish, a perfect antidote to cold weather. It is warming, rich and almost chili-like.   Tiny potatoes give the dish a lot of body.  Chorizo sausage gives an amazing depth of flavor. And of course, there are the tomatoes and chipotle peppers enlivening the sauce. Served with flour tortillas, it can be used to stuff them with tinga and cheese and avocado. 

Esposito at 354 W 38th St. is a venerable New York institution. Its entrance is on a block of Ninth Avenue that used to be one of centers of Italian cooking in the city. Down the block at # 488 stood Manganaro’s founded in 1893.  More properly, it was called Manganaro’s Grosseria Italiana.  Now “grocery” in Italian is ‘alimentari’. The word ‘Grosseria’ doesn’t even exist in Italy. Early Italian American’s ‘italianized’ American words which is exactly what they did here. Grocery became ‘Grosseria’.  Esposito’s, founded in 1933, was a johnny-come-lately compared to Manganaro’s but at least it’s still there.  Manganaro’s which introduced the Hero Sandwich to American’s closed up shop amid an epic family feud in 2012.  Judging from the sad state of Esposito’s sign, with its missing ‘p’, this purveyor of pork (and chicken and beef) looks like it’s on it last gasp too.  Never mind the sign, the entire neighborhood is part of a massive building boom that’s bringing new towers right across the street.  All this is to say, if you want to visit Esposito I wouldn’t wait too long.

Armed with my boneless pork shoulder, I went home to make my tinga.  Rick Bayless is arguably the most prominent authority on authentic Mexican food in the country.  (Diane Kennedy, the other contender for that crown, lives in Mexico.  Chef Bayless was born in Oklahoma City, to a family in the barbecue business.  After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, he did doctoral work in anthropologic linguistics at the University of Michigan.  His culinary career was well underway when he and his wife Deann did six years of culinary research in Mexico.  I used to go to Chicago, where the chef eventually hung his hat, and try very hard to get into one of his two Mexican Restaurants.  The first, Frontera Grill (445 North Clark St.) shares the same address with the second, Topolobampo.   Bayless has won every award imagineable from James Beard to Chicago’s most popular restaurant according to Zagat.   Basically, you are in very good hands when your home cooking is accompanied by Chef Bayless’s recipes.        

Courtesy Food and Wine

Chef Bayliss prides himself of making authentic Mexican dishes. This one is an authentic ‘tinga’.  The actual translation of ‘Tinga’ is ‘scolding’ or ‘quarrel’ in Spanish.   But that’s the literal translation. In culinary terms ‘Tinga’ implies torn or shredded pieces of meat. So a Pork Tinga translates to shredded pork and fresh chorizo sausage in a tomato sauce enriched with Chipotle Chiles in Adobo sauce.  You can find cans of that in virtually any grocery store than carries Goya products, for instance. Chipotle Chiles are actually smoked, dried jalapeno peppers.  If you’re reading this and don’t like in the States, you should be able to find dried chipotle spice but use that very sparingly as it is much more fiery than Chipotles in Adobo.      

I was intrigued by the cooking process.  You first boil cubes of pork shoulder in water seasoned with salt, thyme, marjoram and bay leaves.   Once the pork is tender, you save some of the cooking liquid and cool the pork so that you can tear it apart.  This is not a terribly intensive dish but it does require some time at the stove.  The next task is to parboil the potatoes and then break down the chorizo. The shredded pork goes back into the skillet to brown with the onion. The layers of flavor are added in intervals and finally the stew comes together with the addition of the reserved pork broth.  Chef Bayliss recommended serving the tinga with slices of avocado, red onion and Queso Fresca.  I couldn’t find a ripe avocado and substituted Feta for the Queso.  The whole thing was magnificent. Here is the recipe.

Recipe for Rick Bayless’ Pork Tinga:
Active Time 45 minutes. Total Time 1 hr. 45 minutes. Serves 4.
1 1/4 pounds trimmed boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 bay leaves
3/4 pound white or red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large fresh chorizo, casing removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
One 28-ounce can peeled Italian tomatoes, chopped and drained
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded and minced, plus 4 teaspoons sauce
Salt and sugar, for seasoning
1. In a large saucepan, simmer the pork, marjoram, thyme and bay leaves in 4 cups of salted water, partially covered, until the meat is tender, 45 minutes. 
2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a plate; let cool slightly, then tear it into smaller pieces. 
3. Skim the fat from the pork broth; reserve 1 1/2 cups.
4. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.
5. In a medium, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the chorizo and stir over moderately low heat, breaking it up, until cooked through, 10 minutes; transfer to a plate. 
6. Add the pork and onion to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until well-browned, 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
7. Stir in the tomatoes and chorizo and cook for 5 minutes. 
8. Add the potatoes, chipotle, adobo sauce and the 1 1/2 cups of pork broth; simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and a pinch of sugar and serve.

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