Carne de puerco con mole y nopales (Pork with cactus in red mole sauce)

In my family, we all have our favorite things my Grandma Lupe cooked.  I was just visiting my Aunt Jessie in the hospital and we were of course talking about food.  I asked her what her favorite thing was that my grandma cooked and she immediately smiled and said, “the mole with nopales and carne de puerco.”  Immediately, my mouth started to water in memory.  I haven’t had those in years and we chatted for a bit, talking about the ingredients and how to make it.

The mole was different than most, very piquant and delicious with a tangy, smokey flavor that haunts my memory.  I’ve never tasted mole like hers for nopales (cactus) and carne de puerco (pork) anywhere else.  The nopales are de-thorned, washed and sliced into 1-inch sections, then boiled with quartered onion for about ten minutes, then drained and set aside.  You can make them ahead of time and refrigerate them to save time.

Carne de puerco con nopales y mole

For the mole:

Chiles California’s (dried california chiles) 8-10 of them

1 small onion

water

salt to taste

Boil the chiles in water with one quartered onion until they are soft about 20 minutes.  Scoop out the chiles and onion with a slotted spoon and scoop them out  and cool them off.  Taking a sharp paring knife, cut into the chiles and remove the stems, veins and seeds then place them into a blender.  Blend until smooth.

For the pork:

2 pounds cubed pork (pork shoulder or pork chops with the fat untrimmed)
salt and pepper
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf

Fry the pork until it is browned and crispy.  Start off on a high flame then lower it and stir occasionally, to keep from sticking.  The pork needs to be very, very crispy, almost cooked through  into hard little nuggets.

Scoop the pork out and drain.  Set aside.

Drain off some of the drippings from the pan, leaving about two tablespoons in.  Add the onions and sautee them, scraping the from the bottom of the pan.  When the onions are nicely browned, add the cooked pork, a clove of garlic and the bay leaf.  Cook on low heat for about ten minutes stirring occasionally.  Add in the sauce and the reserved nopales and let simmer for another 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the bay leaf and the garlic cloves and discard.

Serve with rice, beans and fresh tortillas.

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