With succulent and tender pork pieces luxuriating in a rich chile salsa, Chileajo is yet another of a long list of Mexico’s culinary gems. Made from the well-known building blocks of dried chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, and spices, Chileajo is anything but routine.
Tangy, smoky, and laced with heat, Chileajo is pure pleasure for the palate. Perfect for a fine dining occasion while still straight forward and doable for a weeknight meal, Chileajo is as versatile as the little black dress.
5 lbs bony pork pieces (baby-back ribs and neck bones work great)
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 medium onion, whole
3 garlic cloves
5 oz dried guajillo chiles, deveined and seeds removed
1 oz dried de arbol chiles, deveined and seeds removed
1 large roma tomato
9 medium tomatillos
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp whole cumin seed
1 Tb oil for frying
salt to taste
Fill a large pot or Dutch oven half full with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse meat well with very hot tap water and place in boiling water along with whole onion, 3 garlic cloves, and generous salt. This is important as it is harder to season the meat completely if done at a later stage in cooking. Reduce heat to medium and allow meat to simmer until just tender. Once done, remove pork from broth and set aside, reserving broth.
As pork is cooking, place tomato and tomatillos in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Once done, remove from heat and place chiles in same saucepan and cover with lid to allow chiles to rehydrate.
Once chiles are soft and rehydrated, place them into a blender jar along with the tomato, tomatillos, garlic cloves, onion, and cumin seed; and blend well. Add 1-2 cups reserved pork broth as necessary to loosen the mixture slightly. Strain through a medium-meshed sieve and set aside.
In a large pot or Dutch oven (may reuse the same one) place 1 tablespoon oil and bring to high heat. Brown previously-boiled pork pieces slightly. Once pork is browned, pour in blended chile mixture and stir well until all brown bits are released from bottom of pot. Reduce heat and add 2-3 cups additional pork broth and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes to season well. Consistency will be based on preference but it should not be watery. It should thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon and/or stick to the pork pieces. Once desired consistency is reached, add salt to taste (may require a good bit if pork stock was not well salted from beginning). Serve with warm corn tortillas, arroz blanco, and a generous side of frijoles de olla. Yield: 6-8.
Chileajo in Chicago:
While you may not find Chileajo on any menu in the Chicagoland area, you can most certainly obtain the necessary ingredients with little to no effort. Remember that the best quality chiles are pliable, leathery, and fragrant, and should be purchased from stores that have a healthy amount of business where the stock is rotated on a regular basis. Although your local Hispanic grocer is the best place to start, depending on your neighborhood, chiles may also be found in such chains as Food4Less, Meijer, and even Aldi.
More recipes using dried chiles:
Adobo de Puerco
Salsa Roja para Tacos
Guisado de Lengua en Salsa Roja
Mixiotes de Borrego
Mole de Olla de Res
Pasilla Chile and Chocolate Flourless Cake
Almendrado de Pollo
Pollo en Mole Pasilla
Salsa de Chile de Arbol
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