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Pork Vindaloo- Dinner For A Cold Winter's Night

The snow stopped falling last night and now the temperatures are falling into subzero territory— it appears winter has settled in. The kids had another snow day and we slept in late, stayed in our pajamas well into the morning, shoveled a path to the sauna, made cookies and kept the wood stove stoked. There were a few hiccups with the major snow removal portion of the day— both snow removal tools (the plow truck and the snow blower) had far different ideas of how to spend their day than Ted's idea of clearing a path for our cars. Thank God, Ted is good at coaxing cantankerous machines into action and we now have access to the street. Winter arrived with a bang this year, I guess we better buckle up and enjoy the ride (at least it's going to be a white Christmas).

I read a book, Goa Freaks: My Hippie Years in India, when I was pregnant with Jack and while it was interesting to read about the heroin, hashish and seriously wild parties, I wondered what kind of food those Goa freaks ate (turns out, heroin addicts don't really care about their next meal). Goa is a state in Western India that was under Portuguese rule for 450 years and the food reflects those two very different cultures. Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish called, Carne de Vinha d'Alhos— named for the three main ingredients, carne (pork), vinho (wine) and alhos (garlic). As the dish moved towards Indian cuisine, the wine was replaced with vinegar and the fenugreek, chilies, cardamon and cinnamon were added to spice it up. Traditional vindaloo recipes do not use tomatoes but since I doubt I'll encounter a Goan anytime soon, I added them to the sauce. You can leave them out if you are going for a more traditional Goan vindaloo experience.

The red wine vinegar I started a year ago (recipe here)  is robust and healthy— the mother is doing her job and turning wine into beautiful vinegar. In order to keep the vinegar in balance, I need to remove about a cup every couple of weeks, add some new wine and give it a vigorous stir and some air. Needless to say, I have quite a bit of vinegar lying around and there is only so much salad a girl and her family want to eat. On a cold winter's night, pork vindaloo is not only a good use for red wine vinegar— its warm spices, tender pork and tangy sauce are the perfect panacea for sub-zero temperatures.

Pork Vindaloo (adapted from Epicurious.com)

2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
3 dried red chilies
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. cardamon seeds
1 3-inch stick of cinnamon
1 1/2 whole brown mustard seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
7 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 cup coconut oil
1 14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (I use Carmelina brand tomatoes)
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
2 pounds pork, trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
Whole head of garlic, peeled and separated
2 inch bundle of cilantro stems, tied with kitchen twine
1 tsp. turmeric 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Preparation
Grind the cumin seeds, red chilies, peppercorns, cardamon seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek in a spice mill or a mortar and pestle. Place the ground spices in a bowl. Add the 5 tablespoons of vinegar, the cinnamon stick, salt and brown sugar. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a large sauté pan over  medium heat and add the onions. Fry the onions, stirring frequently, until the onions turn deep golden brown and crisp. Watch them carefully, you are going for crispy, not burned. Remove the onions and place them in a blender or food processor. Add 3 tablespoons of water and purée the onions. Add the onion purée to the spice mixture in the bowl.

In the blender or food processor, add the ginger, garlic, and 3 tablespoons of water and blend until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.

In the skillet you fried the onions, cook the pork cubes, in small batches, until lightly browned on all sides. Place the cooked pork in a bowl and continue with the remaining pork cubes until all pork has been cooked.

In the same pan you cooked the pork, add the ginger/garlic mixture and cook for a minute. Add the chicken broth and turmeric and stir to combine.

Add the pork cubes and any juices that accumulated in the bowl, the tomatoes, chopped onion, the cilantro stems,  the spice/onion mixture and the ginger/garlic mixture into a crock pot. Cook on high for 4 -5 hours. Stir in 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup of cilantro before you serve it over basmati rice. I also made raita (recipe here) to serve with the vindaloo.