I have previously shared a recipe for chile verde — a beloved holiday favorite at my house — and while this recipe for pork, poblano, and pumpkin stew is very similar, where the stew really veers off is with its aromatics: tomato paste; San Marzano tomatoes; and a fragrant blend of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and brown sugar. This stew has a more Mediterranean vibe; a far cry from the Southwestern flavors of the original.
I wanted this recipe to be doable on a weeknight, so I chose pork tenderloin for its quick cooking time and delicate texture. After a quick browning in the pot, it just needs 10 minutes to cook all the way through. If you’ve got extra time or want to make this on a weekend, go all out and get yourself a pork shoulder instead. When the meat gets a chance to simmer all day in the flavorful broth, the resulting complex flavors cannot be matched.
And while I know that chopping pumpkin and butternut squash can be a chore, I have a new-to-me trick to alleviate some of the pain. I was chatting with a student at our knife station (I teach cooking classes at a culinary store) about knives, when another customer overheard us complaining about how hard it is to break down winter squash. He informed me he was a line cook, and his method is to par-bake a whole squash at 400°F — just long enough to soften it up a little before peeling and dicing.
I must have stared at him wild-eyed for a few minutes before acknowledging his pure and total genius. I mean, how had I never thought of that before? So when it was time to prep for this recipe, I took his tip one step further, and pricked the squash all over with a fork, and microwaved it for three minutes. All I can say is that chopping up a squash will never be a task to dread anymore. (If I ever see that man again, I will hug him and never let him go!)
This pork, poblano, and pumpkin stew is a great way to use up some of those Halloween pumpkins left on the porch (as long as they are not carving pumpkins, which are bred to be soft but don’t taste very good), but you can also use any sort of squash you find at the store. Not only is it a flavorful and healthy stew, but poured over cooked rice, it becomes the perfect one-bowl meal!
Pork, Poblano, and Pumpkin Stew
Serves 2 to 4, can be easily doubled
1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Neutral cooking oil, such as canola
1 small onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, strained (liquid reserved for another use)
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups peeled and cubed pumpkin, butternut squash, or kabocha squash
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Cooked white rice, for serving
Pumpkin seeds, for serving (optional)
Pat the cubed pork dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat two to three tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until sizzling. Working in batches (do not crowd the pan), cook pork until well-browned, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon to a separate bowl and set aside.
Add the onions and peppers to the Dutch oven. Add a pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, brown sugar, coriander, cinnamon, and salt, and sauté for about a minute.
Pour in 1 cup of chicken stock and increase heat to high. While the mixture comes to a boil, use a wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Continue boiling until the liquid has reduced to a glaze, and then add the remaining 2 cups of stock, drained tomatoes, and cubed pumpkin or squash.
Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is cooked through. Return the pork to the pot and continue cooking until the pork is cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed.
This dish keeps getting better with time, so make 1 or 2 days in advance if possible.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)