Apples: they're not just for the teacher anymore. They are also for cooking. Case in point: Pork Loin & Apple Chili.
I guess I have a thing for apples. This is my second post on The Salted Pepper, and it's my second post featuring apples as a key ingredient. Here's the first.
The best apple I ever tasted was growing on a lone tree along the side of a road in Romania. I was there working on a television documentary about vampires. The chartered bus our production crew was on had pulled over for a short break on the way to the Carpathian Mountains. We got out to stretch our legs and several of us picked green apples from the tree. I've always loved apples (especially red ones), but none ever tasted as good as this one. Maybe I was really hungry, or maybe I was craving something familiar, or maybe it was the lack of pesticides, or maybe it really was the best apple in the world. Upon returning home, I searched, but never found, an apple so delicious - red or green.
Years later, my mom sent me a copy of my Grandma Cella's chili recipe. Her "secret" ingredients: three different types of beans... and APPLES. I've made variations on the theme, sometimes with red apples, sometimes with Granny Smith apples, but usually with beef (my favorite combination being hamburger and sirloin). One of my chili creations features sirloin cubes marinated in Cholula (try this sometime). How about chili using beer, homemade beef stock, beans, no beans, or peanut butter? Yep, done that.
Recently, Louise and I found out about a chili cook-off nearby. She loves to participate in these competitions and her Thai Curry Chili has won two 1st-place awards and one 2nd-place. I've entered along side of her, but my chili creations have yet to stand out. That's okay, though; it's not all about winning - it's about supporting good causes, tasting great chili, meeting new people, and having fun.
For this most-recent cook-off, I decided to try something different. I immediately thought about using pork instead of beef... and what goes better with pork than apples? I also chose to leave out the beans - it doesn't need them.
My Pork Loin & Apple Chili did not win the cook-off. Neither did Louise's Thai Curry Chili this time out. We did have a great time, and a few people have asked for my Pork Loin & Apple Chili recipe, so here it is.
Pork Loin & Apple Chili
- 2 Smithfield Applewood Smoked Bacon Marinated Fresh Pork Loin Filets
- 4 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 Granny Smith apples diced
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 can 15 oz. tomato sauce
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 habanero pepper
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 cubanelle pepper
- 5 Tbsp apple butter
- 1 ½ tsp Honey Habanero hot sauce or your favorite hot sauce
- ½ oz. shaved dark chocolate 60% cacao - optional
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 cup crushed pistachios and about a ½ cup curmbled Cotija cheese
- Bake the pork loins in a covered casserole dish at 350° F until internal temperature is 145° F
- Cut pork into chunks (the Smithfield Applewood Smoked Bacon Marinated Fresh Pork Loin Filets) come pre-packaged with bacon - I do not use the bacon in the chili, but you may)
- In a large pot or or crockpot (at least 4 qt.) add the tomatoes, apple, onion, apple butter, and tomato sauce and put on medium - high heat (if you are using a pot on the stove and the pot boils, back the heat down)
- Add the shaved dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli Baking Chips)
- Add the cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper & stir well
- On a cookie sheet, roast the jalapeño, habanero, poblano and cubanelle peppers (lightly coated with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt) at 400° F until charred and blistery (about 20 minutes)
- When peppers are done, drop them into an ice water bath, and then peel them
- Puree and strain the peppers (you will end up with quite a bit left over)
- Add 4 tsp pepper puree to pot and continue cooking (reduce heat and let chili simmer as long as you want to let the flavors meld) - the roasted peppers were Louise's idea
- Taste and season as necessary (you may end up wanting more cumin, chili powder and/or hot sauce, depending on your palate)
- Serve with a garnish of crushed pistachios and crumbled Cotija cheese