I hail from Michigan, land of the great lakes and perfect summers, but where there is a serious drought of authentic Mexican food. (Or at least that was the case when I still lived there). When we moved to California I had my mind seriously blown by some phenomenal Mexican cooking.
San Diego, in particular, is known for the Baja fish taco, carne asada fries, as well as the late-night slightly-grungy “taco shop” culture.
But there are some Mexican restaurants here that highlight some truly unique styles of cooking as well.
One of our favorite finds has been Rana’s Mexico City Cuisine – a mom and pop type shop located in a strip mall in Spring Valley of all places. And it was this restaurant that introduced me to my first taste of Pork Mole Verde. (And the tortillas… oh the tortillas…)
So, since we’ve been stuck indoors, and I just recently purchased a brand new crock pot (that I freaking love, by the way), not to mention I just happened to have a random unused bag of pepitas I’ve been struggling to use up, I thought, it’s Pork Mole Verde time!
And, o.m.g., this recipe turned out SO well.
But wait, you ask, isn’t mole a savory sweet and highly controversial chocolate-y sauce that’s poured over meat? (Or maybe you don’t ask that, because you already know, but I certainly did).
Chocolate mole, or Mole Negro is only of seven (yes seven), different moles hailing from the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. The other six moles are an ecelctic bunch of slow simmered sauces and include Rojo, Coloradito, Amarillo, Chichilo, Manchamantel, and of course Verde.
Unlike a lot of Mexican food that I am familiar with, this sauce is less about intense heat and sharp flavors (cilantro, onion, and lime I’m looking at you). The flavor is a nuttier, earthier, and more herbaceous combination, and works so so well with slowly cooked pork.
I followed a recipe from the wonderful blog, Mexico In My Kitchen, to create this recipe, and it was just divine. It tasted almost exactly like the mole verde I fell in love with at Rana’s. And it couldn’t be simpler to make.
To make it, you throw all the ingredients in a blender and let it whirl! Then dump that beautifully green mixture right over your seared pork.
One substitution that I made to the original recipe was that I did not have any Hoja Santa, so I substituted a combination of spearmint and fennel seed. This was a perfect addition to add some of that “ooo something about this tastes so good, but I can’t tell quite what it is” flavor, without being overpoweringly herbal. But feel free to try Hoja Santa if you can locate it! And tell me about it, because for the life of me I couldn’t locate this ingredient!
And, of course, I simmered everything for 4 hours or until the pork was fork tender but not completely disintegrated. And I served it alongside piping hot, freshly made flour tortillas, for a true homemade Mexican-dining experience.
A squeeze of lime and a little cilantro and pepitas on top finished this off.
I hope you guys enjoy this one. We sure did!
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Pork Mole VerdeCourse: MainCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Easy
3lbs boneless, country style pork rib meat, cut into 2 inch cubes
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1-2 tablepoons vegetable oil
6 large tomatillos, roughly chopped
3/4 cup toasted pepitas
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1-3 serrano peppers (to taste), stems removed (but keep the seeds!) *I just used one because I am weak…
1 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1 cup baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoons ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon fresh spearmint
1 large zucchini, cubed
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 1/2-2 teaspoons table salt (or to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place tomatillos on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until soft.
- Meanwhile heat vegetable oil in a cast iron or heavy bottom pan over high heat.
- Pat pork dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper.
- In batches, sear over high heat to develop a brown crust on your meat. Will take about 1-2 minutes per side, depending on your pan and stove temperature. Set aside.
- In a large blender, combine remaining ingredients – pepitas, sesame seeds, serrano pepper, cilantro, spinach, onion, fennel seed, spearmint, zucchini, chicken stock, and salt. Blend until very smooth. Once tomatillos have finished roasting, add these too, and blend until smooth.
- Place pork crock pot with at least a 4 quart capacity and cover with the mole verde. Add a bay leaf.
- Cook on high for 4 hours or until pork is fork tender.
- Serve with extra pepitas, lime wedge, cliantro, and fresh tortillas.
- The fennel and spearmint combo is intended to replicate the flavors of Hoja Santa leaves which I don’t have access to in my city. If you have access to fresh or dried Hoja Santa, feel free to substitute the fennel and spearmint for 2 fresh Hoja Santa leaves, or about 1 1/2 tablespoons dried leaves.
So, I moved from california to texas with my first job. i was horrified at what was called tex-mex. still not my favorite, but over the years the cuisine has freshened up a bit! love this dish. interesting about spinach. my husband doesn’t love too many tomatillos (roll eyes) so I usually replace some with green chiles, but I’ll have to also use spinach!
That’s a tragedy he doesn’t like tomatillos! but honestly, the other flavors in this make it so it’s hardly sour, actually. You might be able to sneak them in haha.