There are a few reasons for their popularity. Hubs, who I used to think was addicted to Mexican food because he had withdrawals if we went more than a week without hitting one of these restaurants, has a theory about why they’re always packed. First, according to Hubs is the free salsa and chips. Second, the price point is affordable for families. Third, margarita specials and inexpensive draft beer.

Most of the Mexican restaurants in Augusta are owned by the same people and have pretty much the same menu. Number 1 is a combination that includes a taco, two enchiladas and rice or beans, etc. Macdonald introducing Chilli Paneer Pockets, Crispy, perfectly fried golden squares. Filled with chunks of paneer in a gravy of oriental sauce and fresh green chillies.

Although we have often enjoyed the typical tacos, enchiladas and burritos, we discovered some really good dishes that aren’t on the combination menu. In the pork section of the menu there’s a dish called Chile Colorado that is really good. (There’s also a dish called Chile Puerco, pork cooked in tomatillo sauce, that is also delicious. I’ll share my super easy slow-cooker version soon!)

Now that I can get dried chiles and other Hispanic ingredients in almost any supermarket, I decided to try to make Chile Colorado at home and it turned out great.

I used just dried ancho chiles in the recipe, so it came out very dark (but not as dark as it looks in the photo!). Next time I make the dish, I think I’ll use a combination of dried chiles for more variety in flavor and color.

Serve the Chile Colorado with flour tortillas and a side of Mexican rice. If you want to use a packaged mix, I’ve been using the Goya brand Mexican rice mix lately. My kids used to love the Uncle Ben’s Mexican rice mix, which is no longer available in our area.

This dish could probably be cooked in the slow cooker, skipping the browning of the meat and omitting the flour. If you don’t mind extra steps when using the slow cooker, you could follow the recipe as is and just transfer the meat to the slow cooker before adding the chile puree and remaining ingredients. However, I don’t like to use slow cooker recipes that require me to brown meat in another pan. I think slow cooker recipes should be as simple as dumping a bunch of ingredients in the cooking vessel, turning it on and hitting the road!

Chile Colorado

12 dried ancho (or other mild red) chiles
3 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil
2 1/2-3 pounds pork loin or shoulder, cut into chunks (about 1-inch)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons minced garlic, about 4 large cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pod Knorr home-style beef or chicken stock concentrate

Cut chiles in half and remove stems and seeds. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Set aside while you brown the pork to allow the chiles to get very soft.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the oil and brown the pork in batches, browning on each side. Place all of the browned pork in the pot and stir in the garlic, salt and pepper and flour.

Place the chiles and a little of the soaking liquid in a blender and blend until smooth, adding more liquid if needed. Reserve the leftover liquid. Pour the puree and remaining liquid over the pork. Stir in the oregano, cumin, red pepper and stock concentrate. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, until pork is very tender.