So my friends and I are kind of into zombies. It all started last year with a little show called, The Walking Dead, maybe you’ve heard of it. According to my roommate Jon, it’s, “The best show on television, ever!” Jon likes to exaggerate things a bit – that’s one of the endearing things we love about him. We watch the show, engrossed in the story, cheering whenever a sinister-looking zombies get their heads bashed in. We discuss our line of attack, should we ever find ourselves in a zombie apocalypse; and all the while my friend Alex dutifully documents our highly entertaining commentary, like, “A hospital is like Safeway to zombies!” (We have Tejpal Sekhon to thank for that clever bit of pleasantry)
So yeah, we’re kind of nerds. But if that weren’t enough, we decided to dress like famous zombie people this Halloween and take over the town. There was zombie Charlie Chaplin, and Steve Irwin, and Bruce Lee, and Abe Lincoln, and Amy Winehouse.
Pretty awesome, right? Anyway, last year as the daylight hours dwindled and we found ourselves cozied up inside more often than not, we came up with this weekly event involving food and zombies. We called it, “family meal.” Essentially we would cook dinner for our friends, spending $40 or less (feeding 12-15 people mind you) in a very home-style manner, such as: spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheese and tomato soup, chili con carne; but all made from scratch. After our bellies were full, we would gather around the television to watch The Walking Dead. This sort of event epitomizes what I discussed in my last post, about camaraderie.
Family meal became something that we looked forward to every week; partly because of the quality time we got to spend with each other, eating and drinking; and also because we were insanely addicted to The Walking Dead.
I especially loved the concept because it reminded me of family dinners as a kid. We would often gather at my Mimaw’s house; aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, all together under one roof celebrating holidays, birthdays, or simply just celebrating our life. I would have done anything for a spot at the grown-up table, right next to Mom, so when I was ready, I could curl up, lay my head on her lap and fall asleep.
My Mimaw was notorious for overcooking any type of meat; turkey on thanksgiving, prime rib on Christmas, even steak in the summertime. The one thing she did successfully cook was Mexican food. Her authentic Mexican cuisine can make grown men weep. Oh, to know the secret to how she made her refried beans taste so good (Mom says it’s lard, but there has to be more to it than that). I wish I could successfully share the smells that came from her kitchen.
Some of my fondest memories are of visiting Mimaw and Papaw when they lived in San Diego, and waking up early in the morning on a creaky pullout bed in the den to the smell of homemade refried beans, and chilies roasting in the oven for lunch. I would always race up the steps, my hair a mess, and there in the kitchen I would find Mimaw in her teal bathrobe with a pink-stitched flower over the left breast, her hair in an aqua-net and blow-dried perfected state.
Back to the topic at hand… For those of you who are Walking Dead fans, you know it has been a long, arduous wait for the show to come back. And finally it did, a few weeks ago. A busy schedule kept us from re-instating family meal on week one; but I determined during week three, I would make the effort to re-establish family meal. And I decided I would take a cue from Mimaw and make Mexican food. When there was a large group that you needed to feed and feed for cheap, there would always be Mexican food. I made Chile Verde, Mexican rice, and refried beans, and it was, good-braaaaaaaaaaaaaains! Hope ya’ll had a happy Halloween!
Pork Chile Verde
First the Pork:
3-4 LB Pork shoulder or Boston Butt
1/4 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 qts cold water
3 tbsp dry rub mix ( 1 TBSP each of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, Mexican oregano)
2 bay leaves
Place pork shoulder in a 2 gallon ziploc bag (or a container big enough so the shoulder is completely covered in brine solution). Add salt, brown sugar, rub mix, bay leaves, and then water. Shake bag well to combine all ingredients. Let sit in fridge over night.
Remove pork from bag and apply more rub mix and place into slow cooker. Cook on high for 1 1/2 hours, then turn down to low and cook 7 hours on low.
Chile Verde Sauce
1 Medium Onion, cut into wedges
2 Pasilla Peppers, split lengthwise, and then cut into 8 pieces
2 Jalapeños, split lengthwise and then cut into 4 pieces
10-15 Tomatillos, husks removed and halved
1/2 Bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
4 Cups chicken stock
2-3 TBSP olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Add onion, pasillas, jalapeños, and tomatillos to roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle with salt. Roast 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are soft. When done, add to large stock pot, chicken stock, and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add cilantro. Purée mixture until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
After pork is done, remove from slow cooker and remove fat from bottom of pork. Pull meat apart with two fork into bite-size pieces. Remove fat from bottom of slow cooker and put meat back into slow cooker and add sauce. Leave on warm until ready to serve.