If you like mole, you’ll love the “Slow Burn” pulled pork mole recipe from the Country Cat’s Heartlandia cookbook. This isn’t a sweet mole. It’s dark, it’s rich, it’s full of sultry smokey heat from an assortment of dried chiles, while balanced with a depth of flavor from the chocolate and teeny bit of sugar. If you are one of those strange people who doesn’t like mole, then I’m hoping it’s because you’ve never had a good mole. Make this and we’ll know. This is exactly how mole ought to taste (in my humble opinion, anyhow).
Heartlandia’s pulled pork mole is billed as a chili, to be served as a late brunch with eggs and grits while watching Sunday football. It’s not like any chili I’ve ever had, and although I’m sure it’s delicious with eggs and grits, I think you’ll find this pulled pork mole pairs fantastically with cornbread, cabbage slaw, and roasted corn, or corn tacos, avocado, raw shredded cabbages, lime juice and thin radish slices. Or pancakes. Or rice and beans. Or a light soup. … Upon making this, you’ll find all the dried peppers impart an incredibly complex, smokey flavor to the dish, which makes it an immensely satisfying meal any time of day.
The recipe looks a little complicated, but this pulled pork mole is actually incredibly easy to make, especially if you plan out the moving parts a bit. It’s best to prepare the components in advance. My advice is to start the chiles soaking before you make the spice rub, get the meat prepared, then make the sauce. The spice-rubbed meat and the sofrito-chile sauce can wait separately in the fridge overnight (or for 6-10ish hours) so when you’re ready to start cooking the mole, all you need to do is brown the meat, add the sauce, bring it to a simmer, and then pop it in the oven to slowly roast until fall-apart tender (after about 2.5 – 3 hours). Alternatively, this preparation is also easy to adapt to your work day schedule, such that you start the meat marinating in the morning and then begin the roast once you get home, as long as you can wait a couple of hours to eat.
Please note, as published in Heartlandia, this recipe involves a one hour session in the smoker. However, I don’t have a smoker, so I skipped that step. As mentioned above – the final product still tastes deliciously smokey thanks to the chiles.
Is it strange that I’m posting a recipe for something that needs to be roasted when it’s late July and I’ve been complaining about the heat? My rationale is two-fold: it was voted for in Ideas Poll 1 and air conditioning is a lovely invention. Also…this recipe is perfect for translating to a slow cooker. Follow the instructions, but instead of placing the browned pork and sauce in a Dutch oven, place everything in your slow cooker, turn the heat to low and cook for 8-12 hours until falling apart tender.
This pulled pork mole freezes really well, so I highly recommend making more than you need for a single dinner and saving the rest for another time.
I’ve been a huge fan of everything I’ve made from Heartlandia thus far – I’ve finished making 3 dishes from this cookbook, and all have been spectacular. This is definitely a place I want to visit on my next trip to Portland.
- 2½ tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 2½ tablespoons kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 6 equally-sized pieces
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1¼ ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
- ⅔ cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped*
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 2 dried ancho chiles
- 2 dried cascabel (aka bola) chiles**
- 2 dried pasilla chiles
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, salt, paprika, cumin, oregano, and cayenne. Add the pork shoulder and evenly coat with the spice mixture. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
- Optional (if you have a smoker): Soak the wood chips according to instructions and preheat your smoker to 225. Place the wet hickory chips in the electric hopper or over the fire and smoke pork for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, make the sofrito by adding the tomatoes, cilantro (if using), onion, garlic, lime juice, and chili flakes to the bowl of a food processor or a blender. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- Place the ancho, cascabel, and pasilla chiles to a medium saucepan, then add water to cover. Cover the saucepan and bring its contents to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the chiles until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the chiles, transfer to a cutting board to cool briefly, then use a sharp knife to remove (and discard) the stems, veins, and seeds.
- Combine the chiles and chipotle pepper in sauce in the bowl of a food processor, puree until smooth. Add the chile mixture to the sofrito puree, stir to combine, then set aside.
- Once ready to cook the pork (from the fridge or smoker), preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Meanwhile, warm the ¼ cup oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the pork and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the thinly sliced onion, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the stock and stir to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the sofrito-chile mixture to the pot, then bring the mixture to a low simmer. Add the chocolate, granulated sugar, and vinegar and stir to combine. Cook until the chocolate has melted, about 5 minutes.
- Bury the reserved pork in the chile base, cover it in the Dutch oven, and cook about 2½ - 3 hours, until the pork is easily shreddable with two forks. Remove the pot from the oven, and let the pork sit, covered, another 30 minutes.
- Shred the pork meat using two forks to yield a chunky chili. Divide into portions and serve.
- This dish keeps quite well, and can be well-wrapped then stored for 3-4 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
**I wasn't able to find these, so I used 2 ancho pasilla chiles.