Let me begin by saying this dish is actually called ‘Costillitas de puerco con salsa verde’. I say this only because I first encountered this at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee, El Rey. See, normally when I frequent El Rey, I typically order the same thing; a horchata with 2-3 tacos al pastor. They know me there now, and I appreciate that. I mean the last few times I have been there, they bring me a horchata without even asking me what I want to drink! I love that. But I threw a surprise their way not too long ago.
As I waited for the waitress to come by, I noticed one local ordering a dish from behing the glass wall. See the glass wall is where all of their daily specials are located, and the one I noticed this guyÂ ferociouslyÂ digging into with his tortillas was this plate full of rib tips and a pool of tomatillo sauce. I was hungry, and excited, just watching this guy. I had to order.
So the waitress came by and said “three tacos al pastor, si?”. I smiled politely and said, “No, I would like whatever that guy is eating”. I waited a few minutes and sure enough a plate came packed with rib tips smothered in salsa verde, along with rice, beans, and warm corn tortillas. To say the least, I was extremely excited, and a bit cautious, as itÂ appeared a bit messy, and I knew I had to attack this dish with my hands and tortillas. I inspected every bite, and took in every flavor. Every bite was packed with flavor. The pork, rib tips at that, were super tender and packed with just the right amount of heat from the salsa verde. I could not stop. I loved it so much that I had to try to recreate that dish over the weekend. And that I did.
- 1 rack of baby back ribs, sliced down the middle (ask your butcher)
- 8 whole tomatillos, husks removed, and rinsed
- 3 whole jalapeno chilis
- 3 whole banana peppers
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of fresh cilantro
- 1 medium white onion, cut in half
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 1/2 tbsp salt, 1 tsp additional
- 1/2 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp canola oil
Begin by heating a large cast iron skillet on medium heat. Once heated, add the tomatillos, jalapenos, banana peppers, garlic, and onion to the skillet. Cook for about 20 minutes, rotating every item in the skillet, until they build a nice char.
During this time, get a medium to large pot out. Heat it on medium heat, and add the oil.
On a cutting board, cut your rib tips into segments, about every third rip tip. Season the front and back of all rib tips with salt and pepper.
Add the ribs to the heated pot and begin browning them. If they all do not fit into the pot, do not worry, just work in batches. Let them cook for about 4 minutes, or longer, per side, then remove to a plate, and continue with the other batch, if necessary.
Your vegetables should be nice and charred by now. Carefully transfer everything, but the garlic to a blender. Remove the shell from the garlic, and place the roasted cloves into the blender. Add about one teaspoon of salt to the blender along with the stock. Place the cap on the blender, cover the top with a towel, and pulse into a nice green sauce.
Add the sauce to the large pot, bring to a medium heat, and begin scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon as you continue to stir. Add all of the rib tips back to the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for one hour. Take a peek about mid way through and give another stir. If it begins to thicken a bit, add about 1/2 cup of water, then give a stir, if not, just give a nice stir, cover, and wait.
When you are ready to serve, taste the sauce and adjust any salt should you desire.
If you are looking for a Mexican dish outside of your standard burrito, taco, or enchilada, this is a must. It is not the prettiest thing on a plate, but this one is amazing in itself. Not only that, but you get to eat with your hands, and get some really great assistance with warm, corn tortillas. Enjoy!