Saturday, November 10, 2012

Harvest Pork Chili

Chili

I don’t know about you, but it seems like every time the seasons change (whether it is winter, spring, summer, or fall) I think to myself, “This is definitely my favorite season.” I don’t know what it is about the change of seasons, but I particularly enjoy the freshness it brings to life.  Just when you start getting tired of the current weather forecasts, it begins to cool down or warm up, and the flowers bloom or the leaves fall.  The timing is always perfect. 
This autumn, my reaction was no different than usual.  I was thrilled to see pumpkin spice coffee and squashes of all shapes and sizes hit the grocery store shelves.  And the promise of cooler weather approaching meant it was time to pull out the good ol’ slow-cooker.   

While putting together this recipe, I thought to myself, “Which vegetables would give this dish a tinge of fall flavor?” And the vegetables that came to mind, of course, were primarily root vegetables and squashes, so I figured out a way to use their textures to my advantage.  Cooking and puréeing the squash and then mixing it into the chili gave it a creamy texture with just the right amount of thickness, while the parsnips added the same heartiness that a potato would.  The mixture of spices also creates a warmth reminiscent of comforting fall flavors.  I love this recipe, because it has all the benefits of a rich autumn chili while maintaining its primal-ness.  
Harvest Pork Chili

Ingredients:
  • ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped)
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 large granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup chopped baby carrots
  • ½ package button mushrooms
  • 1 cup chicken or beef broth
  • ½ cup seasonal ale (I used Blue Moon Caramel Apple Spice)
  • 1 small butternut or acorn squash (about 1-1.5 pounds) quartered and seeded
  • 1-2 Tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Directions:

1. Toss together the rosemary, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large, resealable plastic bag. Add the cubed pork, toss until well coated, then seal, and refrigerate overnight.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and cook until lightly browned on all sides.  Set aside the pork, and add the broth and beer to the skillet.  Simmer for a about 5 minutes to deglaze the pan.
3. Meanwhile add parsnips and carrots to the bottom of the slow cooker first, then layer apples, onions and mushrooms.  Add the cubed pork on top of the veggies and cover with the broth and beer mixture. (The veggies will protect the pork from burning or sticking to the bottom). Cook on low for about 6 hours.
4. Microwave the squash on medium-high power until fork-tender, about 10-15 minutes, and let cool slightly.  Scoop out the flesh and transfer to a food processor, discard the skin and purée the flesh until smooth.  Add the purée to the slow cooker with 2 hours remaining.
Butternut Squash
I used a butternut squash
5. Add the heavy cream within the last 30 minutes of cooking for added creaminess, if desired.
Do you have a favorite season and a vegetable to go along with it, or are you torn among them all like me? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.