Pork Chile Verde
Tomatillos are the star of this classic Mexican stew and they pack a lot of bright flavor.
I must have stood in front of the rows of peppers at the market for a good five minutes before mustering the nerve to disturb the nice lady shopping next to me to ask her if the pepper in my hand was of the poblano variety. My Google searches revealing multiple aliases for each type of pepper lining one wall of my local Latin market, my efforts served only to confuse rather than clarify. The nice lady was a lifesaver–yes, I had the right pepper even though the store labeled it pasilla. She even gave me tips for my maiden attempt at pork chile verde.
“How much pork are you cooking?” she asked.
“Three and a half pounds,” I replied.
“Then I would use three poblanos–actually four,” she added.
“Is this enough tomatillos?” I asked, holding up my bag.
“That’s plenty. Just don’t forget to add garlic while you brown the pork…but don’t let it burn. The garlic will add lots of good flavor as long as you don’t burn it. Don’t be nervous about cooking it–it’s easy. In fact, check out Pinterest. Do you know Pinterest? Lots of people share their recipes there.”
I thanked her profusely for her time and left the store, excited to get busy in my kitchen.
Thankfully, properly identifying the peppers at the market was the most challenging part of preparing chile verde…and there’s lots of flexibility even then. Some recipes I looked at called for Anaheim chiles, others ancho chile. The amount of tomatillos called for in each recipe varied, as did the use of cumin. Some recipes required it, others didn’t. In the end, I took the advice of the nice lady at the market and let my taste buds decide.
As you can probably tell from the name of this blog, I like acidic flavors and the sour notes take the lead in this recipe, thanks to the tomatillos. Because of the two-hour simmer time I was prepared to have to bring back some of the tartness with limes but I didn’t have to. Even after reheating days later the punch was still there. The only thing lost in cooking was the light, bright color of the fresh tomatillos so I hope the drab green hue of the finished dish doesn’t discourage you.
This pot of chile verde has had me celebrating Cinco de Mayo all week and I hope you’ll feel like celebrating, too, if you give this recipe a try. Even better, if the nice lady at the market should come across this recipe on Pinterest I hope she approves even though I used only three poblanos. “Look, Señora–I didn’t burn the garlic!”
Pork Chile Verde
- 3 1/4 lbs pork shoulder cut in large chunks
- 1 1/2 lbs tomatillos about 10, mixed size, husks removed
- 3 large poblano peppers
- 2 serrano peppers
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic peeled, 2 of them minced, 2 left whole
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh limes for garnish
Prepare the Chile Verde:
Place the tomatillos, poblano peppers and Serrano peppers on a baking tray and broil for about 10 minutes, rotating halfway through for even charring.
Remove the tray from the broiler and cover it with foil to sweat the vegetables, about 15 minutes.
Peel the skin off the poblano peppers and Serrano peppers. Slice open the Serranos and remove the seeds if you want less heat
In a blender puree the following: the tomatillos, poblano peppers, Serrano peppers, two cloves of garlic, cilantro, two pinches salt
Transfer to a bowl and set aside. This will make roughly four cups.
Prep the Pork: (This step is optional, See Note)
Rinse the pork chunks a few times in cold water until the liquid is pretty clear.
Transfer the rinsed meat to a large pot and just enough water to barely cover the meat, about 2 cups.
Boil the meat and water for a few minutes until the pork has released most of the scum/impurities.
Rinse the meat again in cold water (I wash the pot, too) and return to the pot.
Cook the Stew:
Turn on the heat to medium high, add two to three tablespoons of oil to the meat in the pot and also a pinch or two of salt and pepper.
Cook the pork, stirring occasionally, to allow to brown a little. It’s not important to get all sides or all pieces of meat brown—the goal is just to build a little color and flavor. Add a tablespoon or two of oil, as needed. The browning process will take about five to six minutes.
Once the meat is colored, add the diced onion, the remaining two cloves of minced garlic, onion powder and ground cumin and cook, stirring, for an additional 2 minutes or until fragrant. Watch your heat and reduce to medium if you have to. You don’t want the garlic to burn.
Add the pureed Chile verde, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until the pork is tender. You will need to stir the stew from time to time to avoid the bottom of the pot sticking and burning. If your stew dries up at any time during the simmer process, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock at a time. I ended up adding 1 1/2 cups of stock to mine. Taste also for additional seasonings. You may need to add a bit more salt. The stock will also help to cut the acidity in the tomatillos. I let mine sit for about thirty minutes after turning off the stove and the acidity was markedly reduced. You can add the lime juice if you want to bring some of it back.
Serve warm with rice and beans and/or tortillas.
Note: This is how I treat my chicken and pork before I make stock or stews to remove as much of the impurities from the meat as possible.