Cooking

Firecracker Pork Fusilli

The dollop of sour cream counteracts the impact of the habaneros.

In the next town over, there was a restaurant that billed itself as serving “world pasta” or something similar. Their selections ran the gamut from ordinary Italian favorites to more Asian-inspired noodle dishes. But the one dish that everyone ordered was the firecracker pork fusilli.

Admittedly, this was a strange dish: pasta topped with shredded, braised pork and a savory sauce. The mixture was topped with a dollop of super-hot habanero pesto and a dollop of sour cream to cool it down. Odd? Yes. Tasty? Fabulously.

The restaurant closed most of its locations earlier this year, so I spent some time trolling the Internet to find the recipe. What I found was a version on a scale that could easily feed an entire evening’s worth of restaurant-goers. I’ve scaled it back a bit here, but it’s a bit of a pain to make, so it seems to me that it’s almost easier and better to do a massive batch and freeze the leftovers.

This, without a doubt, is not a crank-it-out-on-a-weeknight meal. It takes several hours to braise; save this for the weekend.

Ingredients

  • 4 lb pork tenderloin, sliced into 1″ thick fillets
    For marinade :
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 green onion, puréed
  • 1 medium onion, puréed
  • 1.5 cups tightly packed fresh cilantro
  • 3 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 lb corkscrew pasta or any other shape that would do well with clingy sauce
  • Sour cream for serving
  • Habañero Pesto (see below)*

Instructions

I scaled back the recipe here because the original made much too much.

For the Marinade

Purée onions, green onions, ginger and garlic in food processor until mushy. Slowly add the cilantro leaves until blended in. In a large bowl, mix the onion purée with the pineapple juice and soy sauce.

Add pork filets to the marinade. Make sure that the pork is covered. Refrigerate overnight.

Cooking

Separate the pork from the marinade. Don’t throw away the marinade!

Sear the pork in a thin layer of oil until browned on both sides, about 30 seconds per side. Return the reserved marinade back to the pan. Cover and stew on low for 2-3 hours.

Prepare the pesto (see below).

After the pork has been stewed, carefully remove the pork from the pot, leaving the stew liquid behind. Shred the pork into strands using forks.

I had a lot of sauce, but not much fat. Only about 1/8" collected at the top.

Strain the stew liquid and let it settle in a tall container, using a spoon to remove as much of the separated fat as possible. Note: because pork tenderloin is a lean meat, there won’t be much fat to remove.

Boil the strained liquid in a lidless saucepan at a low boil to reduce in quantity by half, about 15-20 minutes.

While the sauce is reducing, cook the pasta according to package directions.

Assembling the Dish

Top pasta with a layer of the shredded pork. Drizzle with the reduced stew liquid, which should now be a thicker sauce. Top with a dollop of sour cream and pesto, as desired.

A multi-day project with delicious results.

Habanero Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-3 habañero chilies, seeded, chopped
  • up to ¾ cup olive oil

Instructions

Combine the garlic and chilies in the bowl of a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. Add and blend in cilantro leaves in small batches. Thin the mixture with olive oil until desired consistency is reached.

* Very Important Note: habañeros are very, very hot peppers. Wear protective gloves when handling them. You don’t want to get super-hot pepper juice on your hand and then inadvertently touch your eye or other sensitive area later that evening.

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