I have been thinking about chile verde since well before the Super Bowl. Like drawing a grid on a poster board and paying $1 per square, there is something about a spicy pot of pork and salsa simmering on the stove that is synonymous to me with that January (or rather February now) Sunday.
So I was planning to make this in DC at a friend’s house – they just moved East and we were going to help them get settled and welcome them to the cold. The perfect time for chile verde (especially as it pairs particularly well with beer – a requirement on Super Bowl Sunday). But then there was that silly Snowpocalypse, and we cancelled the trip. I wasn’t ready to be stuck on a bus for any extra time, regardless of wireless internet, power plugs and extra leg room.
And once you start thinking about chile verde, you can’t just let the feeling pass. You really need to make it. My only mistake was waiting a few weeks.
Chile verde is slow-simmered pork and salsa verde. I have seen (and made) many versions of the same dish. Some include tomatillos, some make the green sauce simply from chiles and onions. Some add cilantro to the sauce before it simmers, some add it at the end, some forego it all together. Some versions even have tomato in the mix. Many add cumin, but I keep it super simple (and I add cumin to too much as it is), so I don’t add extra spices.
I originally made my mom’s version – a recipe she received from a friend origianlly from Mexico. It had chiles and a couple blanched tomatoes, but no tomatillos and actually used bone-in pork chops instead of pork shoulder. It also used lard which adds a nice authenticity, but I am more of an olive or vegetable oil gal myself. (Not that I am totally adverse to lard, but I’d rather keep at least the appearance of trying to make things a tad lighter.)
It was spicy and rather quick, all things considered, as the pork chops do not take as long to tenderize as the pork shoulder. Really – there was no reason to make any changes.
But who are we kidding. Once I saw how easy it was, I had to make changes, I had to play. And I think it is better for me to play in the kitchen – otherwise I would play with my food at the dinner table and quite honestly I am a bit old for that.
The version I have settled on uses pork shoulder, tomatillos and chiles, jalapeños both roasted and raw and a good amount of onion and garlic. I am so happy with this version, I have finally stopped playing with it.
Unless you give me good reason to change it again.
Chile Verde2 – 2½ lb. pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), excess fat removed and cut into 1″ pieces 2 T. vegetable oil (I generally use a neutral flavored oil when making Mexican foods, but olive oil definitely works here) 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed, washed and dried 4 Anaheim peppers (I went 3 anaheims and 1 poblano here – guess I was feeling a bit wild) 3 jalapeño peppers (or a combination of jalapeños and serranos, depending on how spicy you want it), 2 whole, 1 chopped 1 medium onion, roughly chopped 3 cloves garlic, chopped 2 (plus) cups water ½ c. chopped cilantro kosher salt freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
On a foil lined baking sheet, place tomatillos, anaheim peppers, and 2 whole jalapeño peppers (when you remove the skins from tomatillos, they will be a bit sticky – make sure you rinse them well). Roast for about 20 minutes or until the skins blacken, turning occasionally during the cooking time. Place peppers on a plate and cover with plastic wrap to cool, set tomatillos aside.
In the meantime, heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork cubes with salt and pepper. Add oil to the pot and brown pork in batches, about 4 minutes per batch. When you first add the pork, resist any temptation to turn the meat or move the pot for the first 2 minutes – this will help it develop a good brown crust. Then let it brown on the other sides for another 2 minutes, stirring if you wish. Do not cook through. Set aside and continue cooking in batches until all pork is browned.
Once the peppers are cooled, remove skins and stems (and seeds of anaheims – keep or discard seeds of jalapeño as you wish) and place in a bowl (or blender or food processor). Add tomatillos (with skins) and any liquid or flesh that has spilled out on the foil. For a chunkier sauce, mash the peppers and tomatillos with a potato masher, cutting up any large pieces as needed. For a more uniform sauce, pulse them together in a blender or food processor. I prefer a chunkier sauce, but sometimes am a bit lazy, so I go the electric route – the choice is yours.
Chop the remaining jalapeño (seeds or no seeds – again, your choice, I keep it all) and add it to the sauce.
Using the same pot you used to brown the meat, lower heat to medium, remove any excess oil (more than 1 T.), and add onion. Cook the onion for a minute or 2 until it just loses its raw edge and add garlic, cook for additional minute. (I do not cook the garlic or onion for long here, as they will simmer in the sauce for hours and soften then).
Add browned pork and salsa verde to the pot with the onions and garlic. Add water to cover and season gently with salt and pepper, as it will all cook down and the flavors will concentrate.
Bring it all to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 2-3 hours or until pork is fork tender. Stir in cilantro (at the end to keep it fresh and bright) and check seasonings.
Serve with corn tortillas, beer and a squeeze of lime.