Saturday, June 4, 2011

a chile verde kind of day

This has been the craziest year where weather is concerned. It's hard to complain here in California, since our weather has been pretty darned mild by comparison with the rest of the world. Still, it's June and cloudy. The temperatures are up one day and down the next. Is it a good day for salad or a hearty soup? Who knows till you get half-way through it.

Today, though, the cloudy skies and lazy Saturday feel are turning my mind and my appetite toward chile verde. The way I make chile verde is neither quick nor simple, and I will not claim that is traditional. It is, however, seriously satisfying and always draws rave reviews. It's something I created in a trial and error process over years, rarely following a recipe but consulting magazines, books,
cooking shows, and the internet intermittently. Most, though, it's been taste and adjust, looking for the right combination of flavors and textures. I hope you'll try it.

I eat pork, GK does not, and we often serve vegetarians, so I've worked for some time to develop ways to accommodate us all, though not necessarily at the same time. I contend that chile verde is best with pork, fatty pork like country style ribs. Avoid the lean stuff, or you'll end up with some pretty tough, dry chile verde. Chicken is probably a good second choice, especially if you'd like to avoid pork and do eat poultry. Here again, it can't be too lean. Chicken, or turkey for that matter, thighs work well. Breasts do not. I don't use tofu at all, but it can be simmered in the sauce, as can beans, or vegetables like cauliflower that absorb the distinct flavors of your sauce.

This can be made as an almost one-pot meal all at once, or components can be prepared separately. It's fun to play with the variations.

Chile Verde with Pork

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, medium to large, sliced or chopped
  • 6 to 8 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 to 1 pound whole or diced mild green chiles, such as Anaheim or New Mexico--canned or fresh
  • 2 to 4 fresh, or one small can, hot peppers like jalapenos or serranos
  • 2 28-ounce cans tomatillos
  • 1 to 2 cups chicken broth (I use Pacific or homemade)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • about 4 to 5 pounds pork country style ribs or shoulder, not too lean, cut into approximately 2" chunks. 
Season meat lightly with salt and pepper. You will add seasonings along the way, so a light hand is good at this point. Brown chunks of pork on medium heat with a very small amount of olive oil, if needed. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, brown onions, adding garlic and about 1 teaspoon salt as the onions begin to brown. When medium brown, you don't want to burn them, stir in rice flour. 
Next add chiles, tomatillos, cumin, and oregano. Stir well and add 1 cup chicken broth.
Simmer for about 30 minutes, then combine with meat in a large pot or crockpot. 
Slowly cook the meat in the sauce for several hours, until the meat is fork-tender. The sauce will thicken slightly as it cooks. It remains somewhat brothy.
Taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed for your personal tastes.

Serve with rice and tortillas. It's also great with scrambled eggs or as an omelet filling.

Prepared as written, this is a spicy, maybe very spicy dish. Be sure to taste it with rice or gluten-free bread if you're sensitive to heat.

Notes and options
  • This tastes even better if made a day ahead and reheated.
  • If you add the browned meat and onions to the sauce ingredients without the first simmering step, it does not make a significant difference in flavor or texture. I really like playing with my food, and that can translate into steps that are mostly for fun. Please feel free to experiment.
  • To make with chicken, use whole or quartered thighs, with or without skin and bones. The skin and bones add to the flavor but are a bit of a pain to remove at the end of cooking. I usually use thighs with them and then grumble at myself when picking through a large pot of hot meat and sauce for bones and skin. You be the judge.
  • For a vegetarian option, use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. It works best to complete the sauce separately and then add the vegetables of your choice. The sauce is also great over rice or noodles by itself.

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