A friend told me about an amazing chef in Tabasco who had a restaurant whose kitchen was completely outdoors—she used only wood and fire to cook her food. I had already visited Tabasco, and with so much of the country to explore, I didn’t want to make a habit of returning to a state twice, no matter how much I wanted to—but decided I needed to try this restaurant. I turned around and drove from Mérida to Comalcalco. I am so happy that I did, as this was one of the best meals I had in all of México. The chef, Nelly Cordova Morillo, is from Tabasco and has studied the food of the region and feels passionately about using all local ingredients, local ceramics, and local wood to cook her food. She took me into her kitchen and let me taste everything that she served. She was so sweet and so talented, and honestly I wanted to eat there again and put all of her dishes in my book (because I need her food in my life). This horneado (braised pork shoulder) was one of the many amazing dishes I tried there and is one of Nelly’s signatures. To be clear, this is not her recipe, this is my homage to the amazing meal that she prepared for me, and I hope that I put as much love in making it for you as she did when she made it for me.
- Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 475°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Arrange the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and chiles anchos on the prepared pan; roast for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Transfer the chiles to a blender with tongs. Continue to roast the remaining vegetables until the tomato skin is dark brown in places and starting to peel away, for 30 to 35 minutes.
- Transfer the roasted vegetables to the blender. Add the raisins, sesame seeds, salt, vinegar, piloncillo, recado rojo, oregano, black pepper, allspice, cloves, and bay leaves and process until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large heavy pot over medium-high, heat the lard. Working in batches, cook the pork (or a few ribs—take care not to overcrowd the pot), turning once, until browned on only 2 sides, for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Into the same pot, pour the tomato puree and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pot and bring the puree to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the pork is completely tender and can easily be shredded, 2½ to 3 hours.
- Serve warm with the arroz rojo and tortillas de maíz.