Recipe: Ruth Reichl’s Pork & Tomatillo Stew

James Beard Award-winning food writer and critic Ruth Reichl's new cookbook, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, recalls the emotionally laden dishes that got her through the abrupt closure of Gourmet Magazine.

Ruth Reichl - Pork & Tomatillo Stew CROP
Ruth’s notes for this recipe read: “Pork chiles, oranges: perfect antidote to endless winter. Yesterday’s stew perfuming every corner of the house with its cheerful scent.” (Photo by Mikkal Vang)

Ruth Reichl - My Kitchen Year
(Photo by Evan Sung)

In the year after publishing company Condé Nast decided to shutter Gourmet Magazine, the James Beard Award-winning food writer, critic and then editor-in-chief, Ruth Reichl, suddenly found herself in the wake of uncertainty. She recalls, “Compared to those of many others, my problems were small. I was in good health. I was not about to starve. But I was sixty-one years old, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get another job. I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life…”

And so, Ruth took solace in the one place that has always given her the most comfort, and she disappeared into the kitchen. The very physical and meditative act of cooking, together with the 136 comforting recipes you’ll find in My Kitchen Year are the ones she credits as having saved her life back in 2009.

One of the lifelong recipes she includes in her book is one for Pork and Tomatillo Stew. While in her twenties as an aspiring writer cooking for a Berkeley commune, she first discovered tomatillos and cilantro. By combining these “strange green orbs” with orange juice, dark beer and lots of garlic, she came up with a stew that turned out to be a big hit with their customers and still remains a standard in her repertoire today.

“My kitchen year started in a time of trouble, but it taught me a great deal. When I went back to cooking I rediscovered simple pleasures, and as I began to appreciate the world around me, I learned that the secret to life is finding joy in ordinary things.”