My Award Winning Chile Verde
Note: This recipe has been updated & reposted here.
My office holds a chili cook-off competition every year, and we’ve recently perfected a delicious chile verde recipe that is flavorful, tender and lets you scale the spice by adding just how many chiles of whatever type you want. It’s an almost entirely fresh recipe, where you don’t rely on canned enchilada sauce, which is mostly green chiles, water and spices anyway. The trick that makes everything much better is roasting almost everything before you combine it to simmer. This is fairly informal, without strict measuring since it relies on long cook time for deliciousness. The ingredients:
- Approximately 6 pounds of tomatillos.
- Four poblano chiles. (Some supermarkets label these “pasillas” rather than poblanos, but that’s wrong. Pasilla is the dried form of a chilaca, rather like how dried poblanos are called ancho chiles.)
- Two anaheim chiles.
- One yellow onion.
- Two limes.
- One biggish bunch of cilantro.
- Four pound pork butt roast (with bone).
- One 17 oz. package of a locally made tomatillo salsa, which includes avocado. (Substituting your favorite green salsa is a great idea, although you may need to taste test while adding to make sure you maintain the level of heat you want in the dish. When we substituted, we ended up with a much hotter product than we intended. If you go this route, I recommend adding a few fresh avocados.)
- Two 4 oz. cans of green chiles (which are generally a mild type of anaheim).
- Mix to taste of chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, ground oregano and ground cloves. We ran out of bouillon granules, so we added a bit of chicken stock instead to get the same flavor. It will initially seem like more salt than you think it needs, but adding the lime juice and cooking it evens it out and makes a rich and flavorful base.
Now comes the broiling, combining and simmering.
Peel the tomatillos, wash, cut in half and put in a mixing bowl. Peel and chop the onion into largish pieces and add to the bowl with the tomatillos. Drizzle with olive oil and minced garlic, mix well and put in a pan for broiling.
You’ll want to broil the tomatillos and onions (maybe stirring everything once or twice) until they start to get nicely browned edges and the tomatillos are turning a bit squishy and soft.
While your tomatillos and onions are broiling, you’ll want to get going on prepping your cilantro to get pulsed up with your cooking vegetables.
For the next step, process the steaming hot vegetables with your cilantro until it’s a uniform sauce. It’s hot and steamy and should already start smelling delicious. Now that you’ve started your verde base, you should start simmering the pot on low heat to get all the flavors mixed, stirring periodically so the bottom doesn’t burn. It’s a long low, slow process.
While there are some heathens who will cook with raw peppers, those people are obviously nuts. Roasted chiles are a thing of beauty. So you’ll need to broil the next set of ingredients: chiles. (Obviously if you have access to a gas grill or a charcoal BBQ, you can blister the skins over open flame or in coals. But if it’s winter or you have a shitty electric stove like us, broiling works just fine too.)
It will take a while for the chiles to get properly finished browning and blistering. You’ll want to check the chiles and turn them a couple times to make sure the skins get thoroughly sizzled for easy peeling. While the chiles are in the oven, add your salsa and canned chiles, and juice your limes into the pot. Whether you use a citrus press like ours or a more traditional reamer, you will have an easier time getting maximum juice from the fruit if you roll it on a cutting board before cutting it in half.
Don’t be afraid of letting your chiles get fully blistery all over, they’re not burned since the skin is coming off. Roasting chiles smell great, and I find that by the time I get to this point, the smell in the kitchen is enough to render me a slavering beast.
Once your chiles are blistered, quickly pop them into a bowl and seal it with plastic to sweat them peppers down. You’ll want to wait maybe five to ten minutes before you start pulling chiles out one and at time to clean and process in your food boy.
When you’re cleaning a chile, unless you want a very, very spicy dish, you’ll want to remove the seeds. Some seeds will come out when you pull out the stem, and you can scrape the rest out as you peel and cut up the pepper. Pepper skin is decidedly hit and miss; sometimes it will come off in large pieces (nearly half the pepper at a time) and sometimes you’re peeling it in strips. Cut the chile up roughly until you’ve taken care of all your peppers.
Once you’re all finished with your chiles, put them in the food processor. You may need to add a little extra liquid from the pot on the stove to get the peppers to a nice consistency. Once you add them to the chile verde stock, you’re done adding ingredients for a quite a while.
Now comes all the waiting and stirring. You want the sauce to reduce pretty substantially from the volume you have now, and we usually let it cook for at least 3 hours. One nice thing is it makes your house smell amazing.
Once you get to a nice reduced volume, you’ll want to cube the pork butt into 1.5 inch cubes. We usually lightly season the pork with whatever taco or carne asada seasoning we have handy plus some onion powder and then brown the pork in a cast iron skillet before transferring it to the main pot. Make sure you add the bone from the pork butt to the pot and let it cook with the meat, trust me it makes a huge difference.
When you add the pork, it’s completely normal to look at the mess in the pot and freak out that there is not enough sauce. It looks way too thick, but there is so much moisture in the pork that in even half an hour, it will get downright soupy and need to reduce some more. You’ll want to cook this for another hour or two to make sure that the pork has time to cook through and get tender, while the sauce consolidates and gets thick again. Don’t forget to keep stirring periodically.
Once it’s reduced down to a super chunky stew sort of texture, you can nom away until you can’t move. (It’s what I do.) Because this is a heavy, wet filling, we like to use a local flour tortilla made by a local company that is heavy: it’s between what you consider a normal flour tortilla and a pita. They’re awesome and completely hold up when you’re eating something really wet in a tortilla. Sometimes we have one or two in tortillas and then eat it out of a bowl with chips until the groaning starts.
One thing I really love about making chile verde is it’s an easy way to feed a lot of people. I’ve made it for family and coworkers and every last bite always ended up getting eaten, which always feels good. I also won the office’s annual chili cookoff and have this hanging in my cubicle until next year.