February 20th, 2011

Braised Santa Fe-Style Rack of Pork, and Stew


Weather, this February, has been capricious. As I write from my 2nd story home office this morning, I hear birds in hearty song, as if in full knowledge of the promised 70ยบ day.

But last week saw a brash and frigid world.

Then, I was preparing a dinner for my bookclub: a Santa Fe inspired meal with this gorgeous rack of pork, browned in a savory spice rub, braised with Hatch chilis, as its centerpiece. Rancho Gordo “Yellow Indian Woman” beans, rice, corncakes, and an avocado-grapefruit salad would be the fitting accompaniments.

I began the slow braise mid-morning. The forecast had called for snow, to begin late in the afternoon, but our group felt that many of us would be still able to brave the elements. With a prediction of just 2 inches, how bad could it get?

At 3:15pm, the snow made its grand entrance. I looked up from my little office perch to see my backyard become enveloped in a whorls of white. By 5 o’clock, streets had a treacherous blanket of snow, both powdery and glazed. We Nashvillians don’t do well with this, and rush hour traffic became both panicked and strangled. Bill called, from a point halfway to our home—typically ten minutes away–to let me know that it had taken him an hour to get only that far. It could easily be another hour before he would make it to our door.

And, the snow showed no signs of letting up.


We cancelled our bookclub meeting. What to do with my rack of pork? Sure, I had my dinner. I sliced off a slab, spooned it with rich juices, scooped some rice and beans. Then, I sat down alone with my plate of food, to consider this meal, and its future.

Foremost, the meat was incredible–moist, tender, full-flavored. The sweetness of the pork was bolstered by the sweet pungent heat of the spice rub and the Hatch chilis. What a shame that I was the only one enjoying it!

I decided to take a chance with freezing the rack. Surely some delectable purpose for it would emerge, soon. The next morning, I placed the chilled pork and its braising juices into a large Hefty bag, sealed and plunked it into the freezer.

Its delectable purpose came to light in a matter of days: A Santa Fe-styled stew for our potluck!

I could envision a crock of this sweet pork, cut from the bone into bite sized pieces, warmed in its braising juices thickened with roux, enhanced with vegetables, some corn and beans perhaps.


The frozen block of pork thawed, revealing meat that retained its moist texture and terrific flavor.

With ease, I concocted a savory pork stew, and made a big pot of basmati rice, infused with sliced leeks that had wintered over in Gigi’s garden. It was simply delicious.

This experience underscored the benefits of the braise. I have roasted myriad pork loins, and found them to be fabulous in the moment, but rather lackluster as leftovers. The meat loses something in texture and flavor.

Not so with braising. Nothing was lost. A terrific meal was rescued–and readily transformed.

Praise for the Braise!


Spice Rub:
1 T. Chili Powder
1 T. Cumin
1 T. Hungarian Paprika
1 T Ground Coriander
1 T. Kosher Salt
2 t. Cracked Black Pepper
2 t. Granulated Garlic
1 5-6lb. Rack of Pork Loin
Olive Oil
4 Hatch Chili Peppers (can use other peppers, such as poblanos or anaheims)
1/2 can Beer (optional)

equipment: dutch oven or doufeu

Rinse the rack and pat dry. Coat with spice rub. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or doufeu, and brown the meat on all sides. Pour in a cup of water (or half water-half beer) and add chopped chilis. Cover and simmer, occasionally checking on the rack, rotating it in the braise. Continue to simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours. You can turn off the heat and let the rack rest in the juices until serving time.

Serves 12-15


(using leftover braised pork–see **starred directions below, if using fresh uncooked pork)
Mirepoix: 1 large Onion, diced; 3 Carrots, sliced; 3 Celery stalks, sliced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
4 T. Olive Oil
1/4 c. Flour
Braising Liquid
1 c. Tomato Puree
1 can of Red Beans
2 c. frozen Corn
Cubed Braised Pork
Salt, Pepper, Crushed Chili Peppers

Heat olive oil in a large pot and saute mirepoix and garlic until translucent. Stir in flour and let it coat the vegetables. Continue to stir this, allowing the flour to cook. Add braising liquid, and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pot, and sides. This mixture will become somewhat thickened. Taste for seasoning, and adjust for salt, spice, and heat. Add cubed pork, frozen corn kernels, canned red beans. Cook on gentle heat. You don’t want the cooked pork to toughen–just enough heat to warm it thoroughly, as well as the corn and beans.

Serve over rice. Serves a Big Group!

***For Uncooked Pork
Cut the meat (from a pork loin or shoulder) into cubes and toss in spice rub recipe above.
Saute mirepoix, garlic, and Hatch chilis in olive oil. Add meat and brown on all sides. Add liquid to cover–water, and some beer, if you like. Stir in 1 cup of Tomato Puree. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Add beans and corn. Thicken the mixture with roux. Cook for another 20-30 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust. Serve over rice.

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes

25 Responses to “Braised Santa Fe-Style Rack of Pork, and Stew”
  1. Barbara Says:

    I’ve never made a rack of pork, Nancy, in fact, I don’t think I’ve even ever seen one in the market. I’m going to look more closely next week. It looks comforting, hearty and delicious. When the snow comes down, nothing better than the fragrance of a dish like this. (Yes, I remember what those snowstorms are like.)
    You did good to freeze it and serve it up in yet another form for your pot luck!

  2. Tammy Says:

    Anything with Hatch chiles is a big win in our home. I especially like that you’ve laid out two meals though. That is a basic strategy that is hard for many to master.

  3. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Barbara, this was a first for me, too. And, I found it at Costco. For the small amount of meat that we eat in our household,I try to buy my meats locally. I’ve never seen this offered by our area producers, and when I saw it at Costco, the rack was irresistible.
    Having the bones really contributed to the flavor and tenderness.

  4. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    I like this south western inspired stew, and I love the addition of the hatch chilis, which is so perfect for warming up in this cold weather. It’s so rare for me to find a rack of pork at the market. I love how beautifully it presents, truly elegant.

  5. chocolate freckles Says:

    This looks amazingly tasty!!!!!

  6. Nancy Says:

    Wow, the braise and the stew look amazing! The pork looks so tender and juicy, and the spice blend sounds great – I love the Hatch chiles in there. Perfect hearty dishes for this crazy weather we’ve been having!

  7. Maggie Says:

    Nancy, this looks delicious and super easy! I love the two for one!!

  8. Cathy Says:

    This is a great cooking/planning strategy for a two-person household, like mine, and both meals sound so appealing! I imagine we could use a pork loin if the rack of pork were unavailable–yes?

  9. Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather Says:

    I love finding creative ways to use left overs! This sounds amazing. I want to try braising soon as I have never done this.

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Cath-yes, this would work with a boneless pork loin. Another cut, pork shoulder, braises beautifully, although the meat is “pulled” rather than sliced–wonderful for the stew, less elegant though, than the rack of pork!

  11. Patsy Says:

    In my “growing up” household, this would have been termed a “save and serve” dish. It looks sooooooo good!

  12. foodonfifth.com, Teresa Blackburn Says:

    Let me say from personal experience the stew was delicious…one of my favorites from last week’s potluck. Recycling/reusing at its most tasty.

  13. Faith Says:

    The weather has been really crazy here too! I’m sorry you had to cancel your bookclub meeting, but it looks like something wonderful came out of it — this gorgeous stew!

  14. heather Says:

    What was the book?! Was your dinner inspired by the book you were going to discuss? Can I be in your bookclub? I love it that you turned it into a stew, both sound perfect for cold weather. Thank you for sharing this fun recipe!

  15. goodfoodmatters Says:

    hi heather! our bookclub is reading a series of “food” books, fiction and non-fiction right now. In this group: The Book of Salt by Monique Truoung,
    Kitchen Confidential by Tony Bourdain and Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell. I didn’t follow a meal in the book (Kitchen Confidential)
    Our bookclub is unique, in that
    we plan our year in advance, focus on different topics (this year it is Food, Short Stories, World War II, and Time Travel! Each month, one member hosts, and prepares dinner, while another member presents the book.
    It is fun, and if you lived here, you’d be a member!

  16. Kath Says:

    I also have never seen a rack of pork, but it looks absolutely delicious. I have never braised pork either, always roasted or grilled. I know what you mean about roast pork leftovers, always very poor, so I am going to try braising next time and see if it looks as delicious as yours. I would have been gutted if I had been coming to the Book Club and couldn’t make it and then found out you had made this.

  17. Michele Napoli Says:

    I love braised meats, and your dish certainly looks inviting. But, enough with the snow already. Right?

  18. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Michele: Amen!

  19. Juliana Says:

    Nancy…love them both…although never seen a rack of pork, it sure looks yummie, and love what you did with the leftover :-)

  20. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Good save. Both dishes look superb. Cheers to Rancho Gordo. They had the flageolet beans I was craving post-Paris.

  21. Anna Johnston Says:

    Its been ages since I’ve made a rack of pork, I love this rub you’ve used. The dish sounds so heavenly warming, just perfect for those nasty cold wintry nights. Love the pork stew you’ve made out of the leftovers too., both wonderful meals :)

  22. FOODESSA Says:

    Hello Nancy…so nice to finally arrive at your table…especially since you always have great cooking going on.

    For the few times we actually do have meat on our menu…I do tend to favour pork, especially since I finally found a producer that has a conscience and raises animals humanely and is not abusive in our food chain. I tend to lean towards pork tenderloin or shanks, however haven’t thought of making a rack like the juicy one you’ve prepared. Great idea for next time.

    As usual…always a very pleasant visit…Buon appetito my friend ;o)


  23. Karen Says:

    I love how you were able to make two delicious meals out of one! Both sound mouthwatering and actually perfect for a cold snow day. Too bad your friends from the book club missed out on this fantastic rack of pork, but I’m sure the stew was a big hit. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  24. pigpigscorner Says:

    Rack of pork? That’s new! Looks gorgeous and the meat looks so juicy!

  25. gg Says:

    Perfect for a family meal this weekend! YUM

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