Melissa Clark is one of my favorite cookbook authors—I find her recipes well researched, easy-to-follow and consistently delicious. But the depth and complexity of flavor in her Coconut Pork Stew with Garam Masala make this recipe, hands down, the most delicious dish I’ve ever made.
And it wasn’t even difficult. (To be fair, two elements require day-before preparation, so planning is required. But making a list is about as complicated as this recipe gets.)
I decided to make this recipe because I found the enveloping NYT article, Pork Stew Gets A Chile Kick intriguing, and I like Indian flavors and coconut curries. Plus, an east coast March ‘blizzard’ was in the forecast, so I knew we’d be house-bound and I’d have a good three hours in the afternoon to let this bake. So off I went to ask the butcher to cube and trim two-and-a-half pounds of ‘pork butt’ (which I’d never heard of before) and collect the rest of the ingredients.
Normally, I reject recipes which require day-before prep and/or browning the meat first (too much of a hassle), but because I’d watched Ms. Clark’s video, I knew the day-before prep was simple and the browning step wasn’t fussy—just toss the cubes into the pot and let them ‘get golden’ for about 5 minutes.
Along that same vein, there’s not even much to chop or mince in this recipe—especially if you use fresh, already-diced onions. Which I always do. That said, in my view the chopped cilantro garnish is absolutely not optional as it adds a lot to the dish.
My only concern with this dish was nutritional. This recipe calls for coconut oil, which has a lot of saturated fat, a lo-co no-go. For information on why, in general, you should avoid coconut oil, read The Cleveland Clinic’s Olive Oil vs Coconut Oil: Which Is Heart-Healthier?
That said, if you omit the garlic-coconut oil topping (which doesn’t add a lot to the dish, IMHO, and is another pan to clean!) this recipe really doesn’t have THAT much coconut oil and thus, is not so terrible, lo-co wise. (And certainly better than Shake Shack or fast food!) Always good to serve with a salad or green vegetable: as you can see, I steamed green beans.
I followed this recipe exactly and have no edits at all: it’s easy to follow and the steps make sense. My only quibble is that Ms. Clark suggests the yellow split peas are the dish’s starch. For me (and other commenters on her recipe page) the split peas were just not enough. I served it with basmati rice (yes, a better choice would be brown rice but I didn’t have that on my shopping list as it was not in the recipe. LOL.)
I also love that the NYT recipes now – finally! – have nutritional information. Without rice, the nutritional analysis proffered on the recipe page indicates 19 grams of saturated fat. When I uploaded this recipe into ‘My Fitness Pal’ and included about 3/4 cup of basmati rice, I got a whopping 24 grams of saturated fat, 118% of daily allowance! Not good.
But omitting the garlic-coconut oil drizzle brings that to a still-high-but-more-reasonable 15 grams of saturated fat or 73% of daily allowance.
So if this recipe sounds appealing (and believe me, the complexity and depth of flavor are ‘restaurant-quality’ which is not something I can usually easily deliver!) just make sure you’re not overdoing it with other high-saturated-fat dishes that day!
If you prefer, download a PDF of the Coconut Pork Stew With Garam Masala recipe.