Monday, August 29, 2011

Chile Verde

Sometimes it's hard pretending that it's summer and I should cook summer meals when I look out the window in the evening and see fog blowing up my street, my visibility is limited to two blocks and the wind is howling.  Okay I know, "Wah, wah, wah!" </end bitch session> Welcome to summer in San Francisco. At least in my neighborhood.

Last week I made chile verde and appreciated the warmth. Actually, I made it twice. The first time (a small batch with chicken) it was wimpy with absolutely zero heat. I used four jalapenos and I might as well have left them out. Coincidentally, a few days after I made it, I saw this article on CookThink. Demand for chiles has resulted in prettier, shipping friendly, but milder jalapenos.
"To meet the demand, jalapeno breeding has promoted varieties that are flawlessly pretty, easy to ship and easier to grow in cooler climates. Jalapenos used to be grown mostly in the high deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Northern Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico. Hot, dry climates promote the production of capsaicin, the chemical that makes a hot pepper hot. Now, some varieties can be grown in wetter, cooler climates that don’t create enough heat for a spicy chile pepper."
Furthermore, the author provides information on varieties to look for if you want hotter or milder chiles. When I'm cooking and using chiles, I'll taste each one to get a sense of its heat - I should have followed my own advice on my first batch. Chiles are hotter at the stem end than the tip so I usually go for the middle. The ribs, core and seeds of the chile is where the majority of the heat is so if you taste the flesh and it's kinda wimpy, just trim off the stem and use the rest of the chile.

When I cook with chiles, my goal is to find the balance between enough heat without losing the taste of the other ingredients and the dish, overall.

Online Chile Resources:
Cook's Thesaurus: Fresh Chiles and Dried Chiles
Wikipedia: Scoville Scale (common method for categorizing a chile's heat)

I'm declaring my love for tomatillos. There, I said it.
Tomatillos (unrelated to tomatoes) are a fruit, related to the Cape Gooseberry. Green tomatillos are more tart than the purple-ish varieties. Raw, the taste of a green tomatillo is reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple. Tomatillos can be used raw or cooked. To prepare, remove the paper husks and rinse them in warm water to remove (most of) the sticky stuff which can be somewhat bitter. You don't have to completely remove it, so don't fret if there still some on the surface of the tomatillo.
Out of the broiler.
Sauce ingredients ready for the blender.
After blending.

Recipe: Chile Verde

Serves 6-8
Serve over rice, or with small corn tortillas, toasted just until they have a few brown spots, but are still pliable. Feel free to adjust the type and amount of chiles to your taste. This can also be made with chicken - I would recommend using chicken thighs as they stand up to long cooking without getting dry.

  • 1.5 lbs tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed in warm water to wash off some of the sticky stuff and then set on a kitchen towel to dry
  • 4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled, but remove any extraneous papery husk - you don't want it to burn up.
  • 4-8 serrano chiles (I used 4), cored and seeded (if preferred)
  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 1/2 cup (packed) cilantro (leaves and stems)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • salt
Sauce Preparation
  • Turn on your oven's broiler.  Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil. Cut the tomatillos in half horizontally at their equators, set cut side down on a foil-lined pan.Add the garlic and serrano chiles to the pan.
  • Broil for 4-7 minutes. I have no control over how far away the broiler pan is from the element in my stove and I think it's about 4-5 inches, so check your tomatillos after a few minutes and then frequently thereafter. You want them to break down and be (quite) brown on top, but it's okay if not every single tomatillo half is uniformly browned. Have I ever mentioned that I hate broilers that are underneath the oven? Ugh. I certainly do.
  • When it's done, remove and allow it to cool a little before you remove the garlic gloves from the paper (discard this) and add everything to a blender. Do NOT add hot liquids to a blender and even if it's warm, only fill the blender halfway and hold a kitchen towel firmly over the lid. Failure to do so may result in a Vesuvius-like explosion and very painful burns. Blending in batches is just fine.
  • You also need to roast the poblano chiles. I halved mine, removed the stem, seeds and core and broiled these in my toaster oven. Although I have a gas stove it's quicker to do it this way unless I am roasting them whole to be stuffed. You want the skin to be completely blackened. Remove from the broiler and let them cool down a little before removing the skin. I can usually just pick it off with my fingers, but you may also use a dinner knife and scrape gently. Do not rinse them!
  • After you've removed the skin, add poblanos, the cilantro and the 2 tablespoons of lime juice to the tomatillo mixture and pulse a few times. Blend until everything has broken down and the mixture is homogenous. Season with a pinch of salt and pulse a couple of time, then taste and adjust as necessary. You don't want this to be seasoned as 'ready to eat' because there are other ingredients as well as chicken stock or broth to consider, so be conservative. Set aside while you're preparing the remainder of the dish. This can be made a couple of days in advance and stored covered, in the refrigerator.


  • 3-4 lbs boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of exterior fat, some of the interior fat and as much as you can of the connective tissue that won't melt in the cooking process. Cut into 3" x 2" (approximate) chunks. Don't go crazy and remove ALL the fat - it is a natural meat-baster. It's hard to remove fat after the dish is fully complete if you prefer less fat, because the sauce is very thick, but not too hard after the first phase where it has been cooking in the sauce for just about an hour

    Season the pork pieces on both sides with about 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt for every pound of meat. Store in the refrigerator for several hours and, if you have the time, up to three days.
  • 2 tablespoons oil - high smoke point (I used canola)
  •  2 medium onions, large dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 serrano chiles, small dice
  • Tomatillo sauce (see above)
  • 2 cups hot chicken stock, or low sodium chicken broth, or water +more if necessary
  • 4 tablespoons fresh ground cumin powder, divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh ground coriander powder, divided
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, divided
  • 1/2 cup (packed) rough-chopped cilantro leaves (I use the stems too, but you might just want the leaves)
  • Sliced, pickled jalapenos - homemade or from the store. You can buy them hot, medium or mild. I used 1/2 a jar (including the juice), labelled "hot".
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Suggested Garnish:
  • Avocado, sliced or diced, quartered limes or lime slices, cilantro leaves roughly chopped.
Remove the pork pieces from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before you're ready to cook it. Add the oil to a large, heavy dutch oven and heat on medium high until the oil shimmers. Test with a piece of the pork - it needs to seriously sizzle. Add the pork shoulder pieces and brown well on each side - three to four minutes. You don't want to crowd the pan, so do this in batches if necessary. Remove to a platter and pour out all but a couple of tablespoons of remaining fat.

Add the onions and cook until translucent and just slightly golden, adjusting the heat if necessary so that you don't brown them too much. Make a little room in the pan and add the minced garlic and diced serrano chiles. Cook until the garlic is a very pale straw color. Add 2 tablespoons of the cumin, 2 tablespoons of the coriander and 1 tablespoon of the Mexican oregano and combine with the other ingredients already in the pan and cook on medium for 3-4 minutes.

Add the tomatillo sauce and stir it to combine with the other ingredients. Cook this at a strong simmer for about 5 minutes, uncovered. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock or low sodium broth and stir to combine. Cook this for another 5 minutes and taste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Add the pork back to the pan along with any accumulated juices and cook everything, covered, at a medium simmer for about an hour. At this point, if you wish, you can skim off any fat that has risen to the top of the mixture.

Remove the cover and continue to cook at a medium simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons cumin, 2 tablespoons coriander and 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano. The chile will start to reduce in volume. Add the cilantro and the pickled jalapeno slices and continue to cook until it has reached the consistency of a thick stew. Take the chile off heat and roughly break up the pork pieces with two forks - they should be chunky, but easy to eat. If you're going to serve this with tortillas, you don't want it to be too liquid-y. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve over rice, with tortillas (or both) and serve garnishes on the side.


Cathy said...

This looks extra super delicious... yet similar to something I make in the slow cooker. The difference being that I use canned tomatillos. I think I will try broiling them and roasting my own peppers. Mmmm. I want.

Ms. Divina Loca said...

Give it a go - the sauce will freeze too, if need be. When it's in season, I avoid the canned stuff and since tomatillos and chiles are in season right now, I'll probably make a batch to freeze.

Susan said...

Oh this looks so very tasty. Your photos are superb!

Ms. Divina Loca said...

Thanks, Susan - on both counts!

Molly said...