Green Chile Pork & Elote Lasagna

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What is Green Chile Pork & Elote Lasagna?

This green chile pork and elote lasagna combines tender pork shoulder with salsa verde, roasted corn, a Mexican-Italian cheese blend and layers of pasta. The pork shoulder is cooked overnight in the green chile salsa until it falls off the bone. Corn is roasted and stripped from the cob. And a threefold cheese blend is created from shredded mozzarella, fresh parmesan and crumbled queso fresco. The lasagna is finished with a drizzle of rich crema and chopped cilantro.

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Where’d it come from?

This take on lasagna combines the Mexican flavors of green chile pork and elote with the Italian brilliance that is lasagna. The creation of this recipe stems from my infatuation with pork. From bacon, to pork belly, to carnitas – I love them all. So naturally green chile pork holds a very special place in my glutenous heart. Luckily, I live in just about the best place in the US for Mexican food. This also means that the closest elote (street corn) cart is never too far away. Nothing gets me out the door faster than the sound of that sweet, sweet corn horn.

As for lasagna, I don’t have any specific memory of when I began eating it or how I came to love it. But what I can say is that I’m in the minority of people who prefer white lasagnas. And since I don’t get to eat it often, I figured this would be the perfect excuse to indulge in what I believe to be the far superior stack of cheesy goodness.

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Origins of Green Chile Pork

There is little information on the web (or at least the first few pages of Google) that speak directly to the history of green chile pork. That said, please bear with me as I try to hodgepodge nuggets of Wikipedian and bloggerian knowledge together, which means it’s also good to take everything I say here with a grain of salt.

Green chile pork is a dish that originated in Mexico. It’s known by a number of names including puerco con chile verde, chile verde con cerdo, cerdo en salsa verde, and carne de puerco en salsa verde. Some say it has close ties to dishes like guisado (stew) and cerdo en verdolagas (pork in purslane).

One thing that can be said for certain is that there are many variations of this dish that are impacted by the accessibility of ingredients in respective regions. In southern regions such as the Peninsula of Yucatan, the recipe uses a more mild pepper. Whereas on the east coast and central Mexico, spicier chilies like serrano and jalapeno peppers are used. The actual chile verde originated in northern Mexico and is known in the US as the Anaheim pepper. Other types of chiles that may be used are chipotle chiles and chilaca chiles, as well as a green fruit called tomatillos (think tomato-cucumber hybrids), which is a staple in Mexican cuisine.

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Origins of Elote (Mexican Street Corn)

In Spanish, the word “elote” literally translates to “corn”. Considering this, tracing the origins of Mexican street corn requires taking a look back at the history of corn in Mexico. I won’t speak to the evolution of Mexican corn over millennia but let’s just say it goes as far back as the Aztec civilization (whose people and I have something very significant in common – we both consider the tamale sacred).

Corn continued to be a cornerstone of Mexican cuisine over the ages, especially considering its prominence in tortillas, which is the foundation of Mexican food. In modern day, the Mexican street corn that we’re familiar with has roots in Mexico City. Known widely for its street food, most specifically antojitos (little cravings), corn serves as a primary ingredient for the city’s street vendors. Unsurprisingly so, elote is served covered in butter, mayonnaise, cotija cheese and chili powder.

During my research, I encountered another street food that is a close cousin to the elote called esquites. Instead of being served on the cob, making esquites requires removing the corn kernels from the cob and preparing them with chicken stock and epazote (a Mexican herb). The corn is then served in a cup with fixins similar to those that accompany elote. With this newfound knowledge in mind, perhaps I should be calling this recipe Green Chile Pork and Esquites Lasagna?

Origins of Lasagna

In Italy, the dish is referred to as lasagne (plural) as it points to the plurality of the noodles in the dish. Even further back, the word lasagna comes from the Greek word laganon and is known to be the closest thing to pasta that ancient Romans cooked. Based on the earliest written recipe for lasagna, the dish called for a myriad of interesting ingredients such as fish, figpeckers, raisin wine and pignolia nuts. Moreover, the “pasta” was more of a crepe-like concoction than the noodles we enjoy today.

Numerous iterations have taken place over the years – each bringing the recipe a touch closer to the dish we’re familiar with. In the 14th century, it was made with pasta dough, cheese and spices. Next was a version made of eggs, ravioli, cheese and bacon. Different still is a variation made in a region north of Rome; one that is crafted with besciamella (bechamel in French). Considering this is a white lasagna, I definitely support it.

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How’s it made?

My boyfriend and I made way too much of this recipe this past weekend and ended up eating it for three days. It was still good on day 3 so that’s telling of how solid this recipe is. I toned down the portion size in the recipe below.

Depending on whether you decide to make the roasted pork yourself or buy it ready-made, this recipe may be more or less time-consuming. The good news is, the pork portion of it is all done in a slow cooker so you can set it overnight and it’ll be ready when you get up in the morning.

Also keep in mind that the ingredients in this dish do not 100% reflect those of elote but rather a rendition of those flavors which were adapted to create this recipe.

Makes: 4- 6 servings  | Passive prep time: 10 hours if cooking pork / 1 hour if buying ready-made carnitas  | Active prep/cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of pre-made carnitas (Trader Joe’s has it) OR:

    • 2 lbs pork shoulder / butt

    • 1 tsp pepper

    • 16 oz salsa verde

  • 2 ears of corn

  • 16 oz shredded mozzarella

  • 8 oz fresh parmesan

  • 10 oz queso fresco

  • 16 oz salsa verde

  • 6 oz oven ready lasagna

  • 5 oz crema mexicana

  • Chopped cilantro

  • Optional: Chili powder

Instructions:

  1. [Skip to step 2 if you purchased pre-made carnitas] Season the pork with pepper and place into a slow cooker. Pour 16 oz of salsa verde on top and cook on low for 9 hours. Remove the pork from the juices.

  2. Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

  3. Shred the pork into small chunks and place in bowl.

  4. Preheat grill on medium high. Remove the husk from the corn and lightly brush with oil. Grill for about 3 minutes per side with the lid shut. Alternatively, you can roast the corn in the oven by brushing it with oil, covering it in foil at 450 degrees. Then remove the corn kernels from the cob and place in a separate bowl.

  5. In a third bowl, crumble the queso fresco and combine it with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

  6. In a square 8x8 baking dish, pour a thin layer of salsa verde at the bottom of the dish and place a layer of pork on top.

  7. Place a layer of lasagna noodles (you may need to break them to make them fit). Add another layer of pork topped with salsa verde. Next, add a layer of corn, then a layer of cheese. Repeat this step two more times.

  8. Wrap the dish in parchment paper, then foil. Bake for 50 minutes.

  9. Uncover and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until the cheese has a nice golden brown crust. Allow lasagna to cool for 5 - 10 minutes before cutting.

  10. Serve with a drizzle of crema, chopped cilantro and chili powder (optional).

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