“I’m tired of pretending.”
These were the words I heard from my husband while we sat by the edge of an closed-for-the-season swimming pool in South Carolina over the holiday break. The kids were getting dressed in the locker room after an hour on the tennis court. It was the last week of December and the sun was white in the lonely winter sky.
“Really?” I say. “So that’s it? Fifteen years of marriage and I find this out now?”
“Well, this is important — it’s our first vacation dinner and I don’t want to ruin it by pretending that I like what’s on the table.”
I had just told him I was thinking of making some kind of pork and sweet potato stew with hominy — a riff on a recipe Victoria Granof had developed for Time for Dinner.
“You could’ve told me before now,” I said, at this point more confused than angry. “All those sweet potato fries? All those Thanksgiving mashes with oranges?” The room narrowed and widened simultaneously. The many sweet potato moments in our lives together started pulsing before me like a scene from Run Lola Run. “Your father’s birthday party in our first apartment!” I said, louder than I had intended to. It was one of the first times we had ever entertained, rotating our scrappy desk sideways against the wall to create a makeshift dining room table. “We made Emeril’s Three Potato Lasagna that night — and you ate every bite!”
His eyes were fixed a heron gliding across a lagoon. He said nothing.
“You’re telling me all this time you never liked sweet potatoes?”
“Nope. Not really. Cloying. Overpowering. Too sweet. Like dessert, only bad.” Pause. “Figured I’d tell you before we go shopping. I’m tired of acting like sweet potatoes are good.”
The heron landed on a small upturned log in the lagoon. His eyes scanned the water, like he was looking for some lunch.
“And what about hominy?” I asked. “Should I even bother?” The girls were coming out of the locker room, their hair smooth and brushed in the front, but gnarly and knotted in the back where they couldn’t reach. I looked at him.
“Why don’t you just let me go shopping,” he said.
Braised Pork in Adobo with No Sweet Potatoes
2 1/2 pound pork loin, salted & peppered
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
(or 3 tablespoon chili powder instead of above three spices)
1 chipotle in adobo (not the sauce, just the dripping single pepper; you can freeze the rest)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar (or vinegar-based bbq sauce like Shealy’s)
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 medium onion, chopped
handful fresh cilantro
Preheat oven 350°F. In a small-ish Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, over medium-high heat, brown pork in oil on all sides, about 4-5 minutes a side. Add everything else to the pot so the pork is 2/3 immersed in liquid, stirring. Bring to a boil, cover and place in oven for 2-3 hours. Remove pork, shred with two forks, and place back in the braising liquid.
Serve with polenta and shredded cabbage that’s been tossed with chopped apples, lots of freshly squeezed lime, cumin, a scoop of plain yogurt, chopped cilantro, and olive oil.
P.S. We wanted to do this with hominy instead of polenta but couldn’t find it in where we were staying. (Usually, you can find a 15-ounce can in the Goya section.) If you want to use the hominy, add a can (drained and rinsed) to the stew about 10 minutes before you plan to serve and heat through.
P.P.S Any leftover pork: Amazeballs on nachos under a pile of melted cheese.