Puerco Ropa Vieja (Braised Pork in Spicy Tomato and Pepper Sauce)
For the pork:
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
- Salt and pepper
- 1 large onion, root end attached, peeled and quartered
- A few ribs celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 large fresh bay leaves
- About 2 quarts water
- A handful of cilantro (bright flavor) or flat leaf parsley (grassy flavor)
- 2-3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves stripped and chopped
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 3 medium bell peppers, 1 each of green, red and yellow, seeded and chopped
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Fresno chili pepper or jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin (half a palmful)
- 1 sprig fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro or parsley leaves (about a handful), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup pimento-stuffed Spanish olives, chopped
- About 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes (15 ounces)
- Red onions, thinly sliced and dressed with the juice of 1 lime and salt and pepper
- Canned pickled jalapeño peppers, drained and sliced
Season the meat with salt and pepper and drizzle all over with EVOO.
Place a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat with two turns of the pan of EVOO. Add the pork to the pan and brown all over, about 4- 5 minutes on each side. Remove the pork to a platter and add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaves to the pot and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the water to the pot (the liquid should come two-thirds of the way up the pork) and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen the brown bits. Add the cilantro or parsley and oregano. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, or until fork tender. Turn off the heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Remove the pork to a shallow platter and shred with forks; cover and reserve.
Strain the braising liquid and return it to the pot. Reduce over medium-high heat until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes more.
Meanwhile, place a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat with two turns of the pan of EVOO. Add the bell peppers, onion, garlic, and Fresno chili pepper to the EVOO and season with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until softened. Add the cilantro or parsley, olives and tomato paste and stir for another minute. Deglaze the pan with the reduced braising liquid and stir in the tomatoes. Add in the shredded pork and simmer for a few more minutes to allow the pork to soak in the sauce.
Serve the Puerco Ropa Vieja as sliders with 3-inch split rolls or as soft tacos with small charred flour tortillas. Top the pork with red onions dressed with lime juice and pickled jalapeño peppers, for garnish.