Chile Verde Recipe Updated: All Fresh Ingredients
Thrackerzog very much treats cooking as a hobby. He’s joked that it’s in some ways an unfortunate one because he can’t sell his chicken cacciatore on etsy. He came up with an initial recipe that included a few of non-fresh ingredients in canned or pre-packaged form, and won the chili cookoff in his office using that recipe. But since the end of 2011, our recipe has had a few revisions and is now completely fresh (with the obvious exception of some seasonings). We’re happy to share out delicious cooking if only digitally, so I’m updating that recipe to reflect the more fresh construction. I’m giving proportions based on the pounds of pork purchased, so it’s a highly scalable recipe. (The last time we made it, we used 8 pounds of pork and used a giant stockpot to start cooking down the sauce.)
This recipe is one of the most delicious things we do in the kitchen. It’s also incredibly time-intensive and we only do it a few times a year. But oh, is it worth it.
- The amount of tomatillos you want will vary based on how large a pork roast you’re planning on cooking. Buy at least twice as many pounds of tomatillos as pork. You can use a small amount for just a couple people or cook for a bunch.
- Poblano chiles. For the proportion on these, plan on halving the pounds of tomatillos and using that number of poblanos and anaheims each. Obviously adjust to taste for spiciness and flavor. (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.)
- An equal number of anaheim chiles to poblanos. (Again, this is adjustable according to taste)
- A yellow onion for approximately every 5 pounds of pork
- Fresh squeezed lime juice. We don’t have a hard and fast proportion for lime juice, usually doing only a couple for a small batch and three or four for a large one. It can also depend on how heavy the rind/how juicy your limes are.
- Cilantro. We’ve done one large bunch for about every five pounds of pork. In the giant batch we did around Halloween, we used three bunches.
- Pork butt roast (with bone). This cut is actually from the shoulder of the pig and is sometimes labeled “shoulder” or “butt.” But you want this cut rather than one without this funky bone and the marbling of fat. Pork loins are absolutely not going to make a delicious chile verde because they are too lean to get meltingly tender while slow cooking.
- Avocados. Back before we added all fresh ingredients and did fewer fresh roasted ananheims (green chiles), we included a local tomatillo salsa that included avocados as well as canned green chiles. A combination of wanting a more from-scratch recipe and not being able to find Kicking Lizard led to simply readjusting proportions and adding our own avocados. For a small batch, I’d add two medium avocados, and scale up as needed.
- Mix to taste of chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, ground oregano and ground cloves. If you’re out of bouillon, you can add some chicken stock although that’s just more water to cook off. 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.
Fair warning about this recipe. To do it as we do, it’s a two day cooking process.
First 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. Just tear the leaves for use and discard the stems.
For the next step, process the steaming vegetables until it’s a uniform sauce. Before I had an immersion blender, I had to use a food processor and transfer to the pot. Now I can’t imagine not having a blender; it’s so much simpler to put whatever you’re working on in the mixing bowl or pan and blend it smooth effortlessly. Clean-up alone is worth the minimal cost. It’s hot and steamy and should already start smelling delicious. Now that you’ve started your chile verde base, you should start heating 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.) If you’re doing all fresh chiles, it will probably take a couple batches to broil all the peppers.
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, 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. Thrackerzog suggests broiling the peppers ten minutes a side.
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 a minimum of 15 minutes before you start pulling chiles out one and at time to clean and add to your mixture.
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, add them to your pot and immersion blend if you have a blender. If not, 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.
Next you want to start by getting your pork cubed up and cutting the bone out of your roast. Cut the pork into 1.5 inch cubes. Since we make this a two day cooking process, cooking the pork comes tomorrow. (For a very small batch, you could probably do it in one day if you made it an all day affair starting bright and early. Our initial recipe was a single all day process for a small set.) But you want the bones do sit in the initial stock to pull all flesh off them and to add some wonderful flavor and richness to the sauce. As you cut the meat, discard excess fat. You want a cut that has fat marbled through the muscle, but there’s no reason to add the solid fatty sections.
The bone is a bit tricky to cut around because it’s an odd shape. Do your best to get the meat away from the bone without dulling your knife unnecessarily, and remember that whatever you don’t get off will end up coming off in the sauce as you cook it. No need to get too close.
As we cube up the pork for the next day, we lightly season it with a readily available carne asada seasoning and put it the fridge overnight. (If you are looking for a similar spice mix, it contains: salt, sugar, paprika, garlic, MSG, citric acid, oregano, cumin, onion and black pepper.)
Because our (combined) enameled dutch ovens were a bit small for the amount of sauce during our last huge batch, I let it reduce a bit in our giant stock pot first. I always find that it smells and tastes so good during spoon tests that I want to eat it on chips even at this early stage.
You want the sauce to reduce pretty substantially from the initial volume, because this yields more a thick stew/tortilla filling rather than a thin, insipid sauce. We tend to reduce on low for a minimum of four or five hours. One nice thing is it makes your house smell amazing. Be very careful as it reduces because it boils in slow blubs. When these bubbles burst, you can get a nasty splatter burn as you stir to prevent sticking. The first day, we usually don’t add meat or bones, because the pots are so full. In any event, if you’re doing this over two days, let the pot cool down significantly before you chill it overnight.
I divided the volume between our two dutch ovens and added the bones.
At this point, you want to quickly brown the cubed pork and then add it. We use cast iron because it produces the best cooking results of any pans we’ve ever used. As a bonus, getting cast iron is cheap and all you have to do to make the pans great is take care of them properly.
There’s no need to cook the pork all the way through since it still has some hours to cook. So just lightly brown each piece and set it aside.
Add your browned meat to the pot. When it’s full I find stirring a tricky proposition.
To avoid burning and sticking to the bottom as much as possible, I cover the sauce and bones and put the pots in the oven for around an hour. (It will stick and burn, this is just to moderate the issue.) When you pull it out, the pork and bone has yielded NOMs and it’s time to reduce again. It looks like this when it comes out of the oven.
Put back on low heat on the stovetop and reduce until the sauce is the nice thick consistency you want to serve. Stir to prevent as much sticking as possible, but be careful you’re not just scraping up and stirring in burned bottom bits. Also, it’s a really good idea to use a splatter screen because it’s a blobby mess and again, you can get burned.
Now it’s just a question of deciding when you want to eat it. The one caution I have is to not overcook the pork. If you cook it too long, it will all become stringy soup. The ideal you’re shooting for with the pork is partially falling apart but mostly in incredibly tender cubes.
NOM away until you can’t move. (It’s what I do.) Because this is a heavy, wet filling, make sure whatever tortilla you use is up to the task. Sometimes we have one or two in tortillas and then eat it out of a bowl with chips until the groaning starts. It’s delicious accompanied by a mild and good melting Mexican cheese.