Despite my inclinations to play it safe in the kitchen, I am surprised as I reflect on the number of risks I have taken during the last several weeks. The more adventurous I become in my cooking, the more I open myself up to failure, and while that normally runs contrary to my perfectionist nature, I can’t seem to help myself. Cuisines of other cultures are drawing me in, and I am grateful to be experiencing so many new foods. Of course, not every trial has resulted in victory, but I’m convinced that there is much triumph in learning through mistakes.
Chile verde is a recent discovery for me; in fact, I was completely unaware of its existence until just a few months ago when I overheard someone describing it. Roasted peppers. Braised pork. Homemade tortillas. I was instantly sold and knew this was something I needed to try right away. This preparation takes a bit of time, but the technique is straightforward: roast the veggies, sear the meat, then put it all in a pot and let it simmer for a couple of hours. The outcome is a multidimensional stew that is utterly satisfying.
The flavors here were unfamiliar at first yet instantly comforting, and the unique balance of heat, spice, and sweetness made it easy for me and my husband to demolish an entire batch in just a couple days. I chose to serve it over rice with fresh corn tortillas on the side. The prospect of making tortillas at home was initially intimidating, but my reservations quickly evaporated once I realized how simple it was. Store-bought masa harina (corn flour) was all I needed, and with instructions written right on the packaging, I was transformed into a tortilla-making machine in no time.
- 4 pounds pork shoulder (or pork butt)
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 5 cloves unpeeled fresh garlic
- 4 Anaheim or poblano peppers, cut in half lengthwise
- 4 jalapeno peppers
- 4 serrano peppers
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, papery husks removed and scored to prevent bursting
- 1 very large yellow onion or 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into 12 wedges
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed and coarsely chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Kosher salt to taste
- Begin by preparing the marinade for the meat. Simply trim any large sections of fat from the pork shoulder, and then cut the meat into 1-2 inch chunks. Place the meat in a lidded container or resealable plastic bag and add the minced garlic, olive oil, salt, and cumin, tossing to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- Arrange the garlic, Anaheim peppers, jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, tomatillos, and onion wedges in a single layer on two foil-lined, rimmed metal baking sheets. Place the pans on an oven rack set to its highest position and broil the vegetables until they begin to char. Watch them closely, turning each of the items as they darken and removing them once they’ve cooked on both sides. With the exception of the garlic, the skin of the vegetables will be incorporated into the dish, so I recommend avoiding letting them get too black.
- Once everything has been roasted, remove the pans from the oven and allow the vegetables to rest until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the papery peel from the garlic, destem and deseed the peppers, and give everything a coarse chop.
- Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium high heat until hot and add in half of the marinated pork. Allow to cook until a nice sear forms, about 3-4 minutes, then turn and sear the other side. Repeat with the second half of the meat (since the objective of searing the meat in two batches is to avoid overcrowding the pan, feel free to make adjustments as needed based on the diameter of your pot). Once all the meat has been browned, place it all back into the pot, and add in the chopped roasted vegetables, chicken stock, cilantro, oregano, cinnamon stick, and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 ½ hours. Remove the lid and simmer 30-60 more minutes until the meat is very tender. Season with salt to taste.
- Serve with rice and/or corn tortillas.
Adapted from No Recipes.
Tips and Tidbits
- I opted to simmer the chile verde on the stovetop because it made sense for my schedule, but this recipe could easily be adapted for a slow cooker. Just roast the vegetables and sear the meat as directed (you could even do these steps ahead of time), then cook the stew on low for 7-8 hours until the meat is tender.
- The amount of heat in this dish can easily be adjusted to suit your taste and, of course, is directly related to how many seeds you incorporate. When deseeding the jalapenos and Anaheim peppers, I did so somewhat lazily, allowing a portion of the seeds to remain. However, I was much more diligent with the serranos, and just a few of their seeds made it into the pot. Doing it this way, the heat was just right for me. (If you accidentally make it too spicy, try adding more honey to balance it out or serve with a dollop of sour cream.)
- Depending on the particular cut you purchase, you may end up with a large amount of pork fat after trimming the meat, but there’s no need to let that goodness go to waste! I haven’t tried it yet, but I found instructions here for how to render my own lard, and I think I am going to give it a go.
- I encourage you to try making homemade corn tortillas even if you don’t own a tortilla press. Here’s what I did: I placed my prepared balls of dough between two sheets of parchment paper and used the bottom of a plate to flatten them to about 1/4 inch; then I used a rolling pin to thin them out just a bit more. It worked like a charm!