Friday, January 23, 2015

Pork and Poblano Soup

I can't bring myself to eat soup when it's hot outside, but when the cold comes, I can't get enough. It is the perfect fall and winter food--prepped the night before or in the morning; meat and vegetables all in one dish; freezes well; leftovers are delicious; easy to double and share.

But what do you do when you get bored with the classics--when you've already made vegetable beef and chicken tortilla and chili, but you're still itching to fill your crockpot with soup? You need this soup in your life.

I tore the recipe out of Better Homes and Gardens a couple of years ago. I've been a little bit obsessed with cinnamon in savory dishes ever since discovering it was the secret ingredient in my friend Mandy's chicken enchiladas. I love sweet-spicy combinations. And I love orange-flavored just about anything. So when I saw this, I was immediately intrigued. I don't typically buy cinnamon in stick form, but we had some on hand after one of Steve's homemade apple wine experiments, so I had to give this soup a try. And I am so glad I did!

Every time I make this, I love it more. This is one of only a few recipes where I've barely changed a thing. The original calls for doing everything in a saucepan on the stove, which would make fewer dishes, but I much prefer to get my food prep done in the morning and let soup simmer in the crockpot all day. If you're in a hurry, you could probably even skip the stovetop step altogether and dump the raw pork and chili powder directly in the crockpot with everything else--but I can't promise you won't miss the extra flavor that comes with browning the meat.

Also, don't skimp on the orange peel or skip the cinnamon--they are what make this soup lively and interesting! The end result is so satisfying, bright and zesty without actually being spicy. (Poblanos, for the record, aren't hot--they are large and green, sort of an elongated bell pepper.) This has a totally different flavor profile than any other soup I make.

Pork and Poblano Soup
adapted, barely, from Better Homes and Gardens


  • 1 to 1 1/4 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into bite-sized pieces*
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red (or orange, or yellow) bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 c. chicken or pork stock
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • salt, to taste (you may need to add up to 1 tsp. if you're using homemade stock) 
*You can use pork shoulder (Boston butt), but I don't recommend it unless you hate yourself. You'll spend hours in futility trying to separate the endless fat from the meat without slicing a finger. Pork chops would work just as well as tenderloin, though, if you find them on sale.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with chili powder and cook in batches for about 4-5 minutes or until browned. (Avoid overcrowding to ensure adequate browning.) Use a slotted spoon to remove browned meat from the skillet.

Add peppers and onions to skillet and cook until just tender (about five minutes).

Transfer meat and vegetables to a large oval crockpot and add tomatoes, broth, and juice. Cook on low for about 4-6 hours. Add the cinnamon stick during the last 30-60 minutes.

Before serving, remove cinnamon stick and stir in orange zest.

Yield: About 4 servings.

Note: This freezes beautifully, so you're crazy if you don't double the recipe, cook it in a 6-quart oval crockpot, and freeze half of it flat in a gallon Ziploc bag. I've even quadrupled it, since I have two large crockpots. You'll thank yourself on a night when soup sounds delicious but you don't feel like cooking.

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