Pork Stew in Red Chile Sauce by Diana Kennedy

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game Changers in Food – see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

Like many grand dames and queens of various cuisines we’ve featured in the 50 Women Game Changers in Food series, we have one such person at #45 with prestigious honors in Mexican cuisine – Diana Kennedy. She is a firecracker, for sure, giving even the Jalapeno chile a run for its money. Not one to suffer fools, Diana does not pay any attention to hospitality or little niceties, like many journalists/interviewers who’ve witnessed it first hand will tell you. Food is of the essence. A correspondent for AP wrote in an article, “The queen of mexican cuisine is scolding me with a wooden spoon.” She apparently wasn’t very happy with the way he was handling ingredients. 

She’s a perfectionist and anyone who’s eaten her food will attest to that. She’s a strong supporter of the local food movement and the preservation of local and cultural richness of true Mexican cuisine. She has an expansive garden at her home in Mexico, where she grows her own fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, coffee and just about anything under the sun, including a few almost-forgotten edible plants from the old days in Mexico. 

Diana was born in England in 1923. She emigrated to Canada in 1953 and four years after her stay there, she was headed back to the UK via the Caribbean to visit a friend in Jamaica. On her way, she visited Port Au Prince, where she met her husband, Paul Kennedy, whom she married within a year. Paul was a New York Times correspondent and they moved to Mexico in 1957. That is when her love affair with Mexican cuisine began. Taught by her maids, friends and their families, Diana grew more and more interested in discovering the real flavors and ingredients of food in Mexico. 

In 1966, Diana moved to New York when Paul was dying of cancer. A year after his death in 1967, Diana was urged by Craig Claiborne to start teaching and writing a book on Mexican cuisine. And thus, she traveled back to Mexico to research and unearth the traditional food of different states. Her first book, “The Cuisines of Mexico” was aptly named a game-changer since it opened America’s eyes to true, authentic Mexican food. She’s written a total of 10 books since then, winning awards including a James Beard Foundation award for cookbook of the year (“Oaxaca al Gusto”). She’s also been awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Mexican Government for her contributions to the documentation of regional Mexican cuisine. You can read an interesting interview with Diana on The Cookbook Blog.

Now let me tell you about the dish I picked for this week by her. This Pork stew is the BEST I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. EVER. I am not kidding because even the hubby, who’s a fussy giver of compliments, was rendered speechless by this one. Usually with every dish I make, he has something or the other to say in terms of adding this or adding that to make it better. But, for this, every time he opened his mouth to comment on any modifications, nothing came out. Instead he kept stuffing spoonful after spoonful of this delicious pork stew in silent bliss.

In my entire life, I have never been so mesmerized with the aroma of a dish while it’s cooking. When you add the cinnamon-spiced paste in, be prepared to swoon. I hovered around the stove the whole time it was cooking after that. It is pleasantly intoxicating, if you ask me. This one here, is going into my book of favorites as a recipe with highest honors.

You can serve this either with rice or warm tortillas. You better get some traditional tortillas otherwise Diana may come after you with a wooden spoon since she has been known to speak out against the rise of industrial-standard tortillas. I served mine on a bed of white rice strewn with a fresh corn and tomato salsa. I give this meal 10 stars out of 5 (and no, I didn’t make a mistake, I meant that). 

Pork Stew in Red Chile Sauce by Diana Kennedy
(Recipe courtesy: Food & Wine)

Ingredients and instructions

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of some but not all of its fat, cut into 3/4 ­inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 15 seco del norte chiles (also called California chiles – deep red dried chiles about 5 inches long)
  • Boiling water
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf, preferably Mexican
  • 1 heaped teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
Arrange the pork in one or two layers in a wide, heavy, flameproof casserole. Barely cover with water, and season with salt. Cover and cook over moderate heat until almost tender, about 30 minutes. Drain off most of the broth and reserve, adding enough water to make 2 1/2 cups. Continue to cook the pork uncovered until the fat has been rendered and the meat is slightly browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, using a small sharp knife, slit the chiles lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds and veins. Cover with boiling water and set aside to soak for 15 minutes. Drain.

Pour 1/3 cup of the reserved pork broth into a blender. Add the garlic, cinnamon, bay leaf and oregano and blend until smooth. Add the mixture to the pork in the casserole and fry for a few seconds.

Add 1 more cup of the reserved broth and the drained chiles, a few at a time, to the blender and puree. Strain the chiles over the pork through a fine­mesh sieve, pressing to extract as much of the flesh and juice as possible. Fry the pork, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking, for about 5 minutes longer.

Add the remaining pork broth to the casserole and cook over low heat until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 1 hour.


Here’s a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they’ve whipped up. If you’d like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite.

Val – More Than Burnt Toast [] Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan – The Spice Garden [] Heather – girlichef [] Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney [] Jeanette – Healthy Living [] Mary – One Perfect Bite [] Kathleen – Bake Away with Me [] Sue – The View from Great Island [] Barbara – Movable Feasts [] Linda A – There and Back Again [] Nancy – Picadillo [] Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits [] Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen [] Annie – Most Lovely Things [] Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook [] Alyce – More Time at the Table [] Amrita –Beetles Kitchen Escapades [] Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink [] Jill – Saucy Cooks [] Martha – Simple Nourished Living
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14 responses to “Pork Stew in Red Chile Sauce by Diana Kennedy

  1. THIS is my kinda cooking. *sigh*

    In fact, I have everything to make this. Tomorrow. To complete my life.

    AND, gorgeous photos, once again my friend! Simply divine. You did this one justice BIG TIME!

  2. Yowza … this does look killer! Love your completer sides too! And you're right … she is a real pistol. But I love that about her! And I love her lifestyle … I would love to be invited to her home in Mexico to see her gardens and go foraging with her!

  3. This looks wonderful – juicy meat and sauce is unbeatable according to my dad and brother so I must try this for them :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  4. Oh my goodness – this looks and sounds too good to be true. Enjoyed the link to the cookbook blog interview. Can't believe I have none of her cookbooks. I think this is going to have to change! Have bookmarked this to try as soon as I can.

  5. I am fascinated with dried chilies after our study of Diana Kennedy. All her recipes show that it doesn't take many ingredients to make a full flavored dish. So glad to hear this got the highest marks.

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