Friday, November 27, 2009

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Pork Tenderloin in Mexican Peanut Sauce

Sauces thickened with seeds and nuts are an old part of Mexico’s culinary patrimony. Pre-Columbian, even. Americans might know some of these moles, such mole poblano—a chocolate-tinged sauce beefed up with ground seeds and nuts often served over chicken or turkey.

Mexico’s peanut-thickened sauces are less familiar. Sure, we know about beef or chicken sate/satay, but pork or chicken in fried chile-and-peanut sauce is drifting into uncharted waters—even for many Mexicans.

Pity. It’s easy to make and tasty as hell. The fried and simmered sauce is thick and deeply flavored with cinnamon, pepper, and chiles.

After tasting a dish of pollo en cacahuate at a San Diego restaurant called Ranas, I dug into my library to compare notes among my Spanish-language food books. The version here I adapted from Filete de Cerdo en Cacahuate in Larousse de la cocina Mexicana. Spanish isn’t my first language, but I'm conversant enough not to starve or go homeless when I'm in Mexico or Spain, so I’m including the original recipe below for anyone who wants to see where I veered from its directions. In Mulli: el gran libro de los moles, Mexican chef Patricia Quintana suggests covering a similar dish—encacahuatado—with a massive amount of ground chiles piquin dusting the top of chicken in peanut sauce. There's enough heat here to suit my taste (it's a chiled peanut sauce, after all, not a peanutted chile sauce), but if that grabs your fancy, go ahead.

No need to fry nuts when perfectly good roasted peanuts are available from the store. Planters or Trader Joe’s low salt versions are fine. If you don’t have access to hoja santa, use two bay leaves and bump up the black pepper just a bit. Not the same anisy kick, but a good flavor, anyway.

Pork Tenderloin in Mexican Peanut Sauce

1 kg trimmed pork tenderloin (two should do it)
1 cup peanuts
3 oz of French bread or roll, into 1” slices
2 tablespoons corn oil
5 g ground cinnamon
salt to taste
1 Tbl guajillo chile powder
2 Tbl ancho chile powder
3 tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 hoja santa (sub two bay leaves if not available)
½ onion (125 g)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp black peppercorns
5 small hot peppers
1 tablespoon sugar
2 chipotle chiles in vinegar
2 cups (250 ml) chicken broth
2 tablespoons cane vinegar
1 cup (125 ml) red wine

Season the tenderloins with cinnamon and salt. Set aside. Meanwhile, fry the bread in oil in a deep heavy pot or Dutch oven until lightly browned. Set aside and brown the tenderloins in the oil. Set aside.

In a blender, grind to a puree the guajillo and ancho powders with the tomatoes, hoja santa, onion, garlic, peppers, sugar, peanuts, fried bread, and chipotle with enough stock to make a pourable paste.

Reheat the oil in the same pot and pour the sauce into it. Fry, stirring, and cook this paste in the oil over low heat 40 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking and scorching. When the sauce thickens, remove the fat that rises to the surface.

Add the remaining broth, the vinegar and wine, stirring until fully mixed.

Add the browned pork and simmer whole 15-20 minutes or until cooked. If the sauce thickens a lot, dilute it a bit with additional chicken broth.

Remove the tenderloins and allow to rest about ten minutes. Slice them into oval medallions. Now, either return the slices to the sauce and serve hot or nap a plate with the sauce, arrange a few slices over the top of that, and serve.

Goes well with fried plantains (right). Leftover sauce can be used to make enchiladas. Be careful on reheating to use a gentle fire and stir often: this will scorch easily.

And the original from Larousse de la cocina Mexicana:

Filete de Cerdo en Cacahuate

1 kg de filete de cerdo limpio
1 taza de cacahuates tostados y pelados
1 pan bolillo en rabandas
2 cucharadas de aceite de maiz
5 g de canela en polvo
2 chiles guajillos, desvenados y remojodos
3 jitomates bola
3 chiles anchos, desvenados y remojodos
1 hoja santa
½ cebolla (125 g)
2 dientes de ajo pelados
5 pimientas negras
5 pimientas de Tabasco
1 cucharada de azúcar
2 chiles chipotles en vinagre
2 tazas (250 ml) de caldo de pollo
2 cucharadas de vinagre de caña
1 taza (125 ml) de vino tinto

Fria el cacahuate y el pan en la mitad de aceiete sin dorar demasiado.

Espolvoree el filete con canela y sal.

Dore el filete con el resto del aceite y reservelo.

Muela la chile guajillo, cuelelo y reservelo.

Muela jitomates, chile guajillo, chile ancho, hoja santa, cebella, ajo, pimientas, azúcar, cacahuate, pan frito y chipotle.

Cocine esta mezcla a fuego lento 40 minutos, mueva constantamente para que no se pegue. Cuando la salsa espese, elimine la grasa que suba la superficie.

Anada caldo, vinagre y vino sin dejar de mover hasta integrar totalmente.

Agregue el filete entero y concinelo 15 minutos o hasta que este cocido. SI la salsa espesa mucho, rebaje con caldo de pollo.

Repose el filete y rebanelo en frio.

Regreselo a la salsa y sirva caliente.



sylvan said...

This looks really tasty and I hope to make it soon. Can you shed any light on 'cane vinegar'? Sounds like soured/spoiled rhum wash. Is this something from the Mexican grocery?

Matthew Rowley said...

Hey Sylvan ~

Sure. It's such a staple around here that I forget it's not universal. Cane vinegar is just that: vinegar made from cane sugar syrup. Not *strictly* necessary, but worth seeking out. You can often find it in Asian markets and Mexican tiendas or—and I'm always happy to give a shout to my Louisiana folks—Steen's make a cane vinegar from Louisiana sugar cane syrup, then age it in oak barrels. I don't have any on hand, but it would've gone nicely here. You can in a pinch sub red wine vinegar (I like Katz's cabernet vinegar) or even some champagne vinegar. Different tastes, but all good.