Chile Verde

After the delicious results we enjoyed with carne guisada, it seemed only fair to give green equal time – Chile Verde, of course, the venerable Mexican tomatillo-powered pork stew.

Chile Verde just starting to simmer

Chile verde is another dish that Tex-Mex lays claim to, and it is such, so long as we understand that it originated on the southern side of things. Verde is native to northern Mexico, traditionally made with pork, sometimes with chicken. It’s another dish that everybody has a favorite of, and that’s why it’s glorious – you get to put your stamp on a version, too.

Fresh tomatillos

The heartbeat of chile verde is tomatillo, which contributes that delightful color and absolutely unique flavor. Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa are members of the Nightshade family, closer in relations to a gooseberry than they are to tomatoes. They’re native to Mexico and South America, and are truly ancient – In 2017, field scientists found a fossilized tomatillo in Argentina that dated back to 52 million years ago. Raw or cooked, tomatillos are enjoyed widely all over Mexico – especially in chile verde.

The wonderful Mexican aromatic base mix of chiles, onion, and garlic round out the mix on verde, along with just a couple of signature herbs and spices – Mexican oregano and cumin seed.

Beautiful pork shoulder

The pork is usually shoulder, a cut with a decent ratio of fat, but nothing excessive – you want something that can stand up to a few hours cooking.

If you peruse recipes online, you’ll find some things done with this dish that I don’t necessarily cotton to. First off, lots of folks like to roast the tomatillos, onions, and garlic – I don’t, as I’m not looking for a high level of sweetness in my finished product – if you like that, by all means, go for it.

Secondly, relatively few use flour to build some form of roux – what’s often stated is something to the effect that it’s not necessary because of all the pectin in tomatillos – I respectfully disagree. You need a white roux to carry the full mix of flavors you’re going to develop here – without it, things won’t taste quite right, and the general consistency of the dish will not be spot on either.

Verde is pretty easy to make – the effort all goes into the prep. Once that’s done, you can just sit back and enjoy the rich aromas. Our recipe will feed 4-6 folks, or 2-3 with generous leftovers.

Chile Verde de Urbàn

2 – 2 1/2 Pounds Pork Shoulder

2 Cups Chicken Stock

10-12 Tomatillos, (Roughly a pound)

2 medium Onions

2 large Poblano Chiles

3-5 Jalapeño Chiles

2Roma Tomatoes

4 fat cloves Garlic

1/2 bunch fresh Cilantro

4 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour

2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil (vegetable is fine)

1 Tablespoon Mexican Oregano

1 teaspoon ground Cumin

1 teaspoon ground New Mexican Red Chiles

1 teaspoon Salt (sea or kosher is fine)

Black Pepper

For Garnish and service – Fresh tortillas, Pico de Gallo, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, onion, and tomato, or whatever you desire.

Verde mis en place

Husk and rinse tomatillos. Remove the woody tops and rough chop.

Peel, stem, and rough dice onions.

Peel, stem, devein and deseed chiles, then rough dice.

End trim, smash, and peel garlic, then mince.

End trim and rough dice tomatoes.

Remove the bottom 3” of the cilantro stems, then rough chop the rest.

In a blender or food processor, combine tomatillos, tomatoes and 1 cup of chicken stock. Process until you have a nice, rough mix – You do not need to purée this, just get it broken down and combined.

Trim pork of any excessive fat, then cut into roughly 3/4”cubes.

Toss pork, flour, a three finger pinch of salt, and 6-8 twists of pepper into a paper bag and shake well to thoroughly coat the pork. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a cast iron dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and allow to heat through.

Add onions and chiles to the pan and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions are starting to brown, about 4-6 minutes.

Add garlic, mix to incorporate and sauté until the raw garlic smell dissipates, about 2 minutes.

Transfer sautéed veggies to a mixing bowl and return the pan to the oven.

Toss the pork into the pan. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms. Turn the cubes and repeat until all sides are evenly browned.

Transfer pork to the veggie bowl.

Deglaze pan with the second cup of chicken stock, scraping carefully to fully loosen and incorporate all that gorgeous stuff off the bottom.

Deglaze all that brown good stuff

Add pork, sautéed veggies, and the tomatillo/tomato blend to the pot, stir to thoroughly incorporate.

Once you establish a simmer, reduce heat to just maintain that. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

That’s done!

If things get too thick, add a half cup of stock and stir to incorporate, but remember, it’s a thick stew meant to hold its own in a fresh tortilla.

At the 2 hour mark, add oregano, cumin, and chile powder, then stir to thoroughly incorporate. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Chile verde with fresh tortillas, charro beans, Mexican rice, and pico de gallo

Simmer for another 30 minutes to allow everything to fully marry and develop.

Chile Verde de Urbán

Serve with what you like – we did ours restaurant style, with fresh tortillas, pico de gallo, Mexican rice, and charro beans – it was incredible.

Gloria’s glorious Turkey Chile Verde with Heirloom Eye of the Goat Beans and Homemade Salsa Verde.

This week, it’s time for another special guest chef. One of the things I love about social media, when done right, is the meaningful and lasting relationships that can be formed. For me personally, some of my dearest and closest friends, members of my real family, were first met online. Now, we vacation with them every year, and I can’t imagine not having that in our lives. What we get from stuff like this blog, or food groups on FB, or any other decent source, can and should be genuine connections that grow and prosper, even when we live worlds apart. Here, as elsewhere, the six degrees of separation principle is very much in play – I became FB friends with Gloria Goodwin Raheja through our Soul Sister, Christy Hohman – They met at a house concert in Crosslake, Minnesota, which is just a bit southeast of where we conduct the annual Stringfest Gathering that y’all have seen posted here for many years now – Andy Cohen was playing, and we met him last year – at Stringfest. For the final degree, here’s Gloria’s glorious Turkey Chile Verde with Heirloom Eye of the Goat Beans and Homemade Salsa Verde.

Gloria is a Professor of Anthropology at the U of M, Twin Cities, from which she conducted many years of fieldwork and wrote extensively about rural northern India. For roughly the last decade, her research has been focused in Appalachia. Her front burner project is Logan County Blues: Frank Hutchison in the Sonic Landscape of the Appalachian Coalfields, a book about music and the coming of industrial capitalism to the mountains.

Harry, the de facto head of Gloria’s household.
Harry, the de facto head of Gloria’s household.

Our online interaction is in keeping with many who haunt FB, namely what we’re cooking and what our pets are up to, (Her dog Harry, like our Bandito, is quite sure he is the de facto Head of Household, and strives mightily to train his humans on proper etiquette.) Like so many brilliant and driven people, Gloria loves to cook, and does so very well, indeed. She dabbles in Indian, Moroccan, Mexican, and Appalachian foods for people who like to eat, and she frequents the St. Paul Farmers Market, and other shops that offer local and ethically produced meats.

She has, of late, become a devotee of the incredibly popular kitchen tool, the instant cooker, (or multi-cooker). If you’re not familiar with this tool, then, well… I don’t know what to say – They’re ubiquitous in online cooking groups and sites. They are, fundamentally, programmable electronic pressure cookers. Instant Pot is a brand name, and hands down the most popular one out there. These things will pressure or slow cook, cook rice, sauté, steam, or warm, and advanced version add yoghurt making, cake baking, egg cooking, sous vide, and sterilizing to the menu.

While many a kitchen gadget gets bought or gifted and soon forgotten, these things seem to have serious legs. In a very authentic Vietnamese cooking forum I belong to, almost every home chef has and regularly uses an instant cooker. For dishes like Pho that normally take 24 to 48 hours to cook, an instant cooker can do the job in an hour or two – And believe me, if the folks on that site find the results not only acceptable, but preferable in many instances, there’s something to these cookers.

Regarding her Instant Pot, Gloria noted, “Well, we totally love ours, really. It’s so great for things like chili verde, ragus, and of course beans. Tonight we’re making black chickpeas with kale, Moroccan style. Chunks of lamb and pork turn out, well, divinely – I dislike having a lot of kitchen toys piling up, plus my counter space is quite limited, but I cleared a permanent space for it, after using it just once!” That’s a pretty solid endorsement, in my book.

Now, before we dive into that Chile Verde, let’s talk about beans, because this is another place where Gloria and I are much of a mind. When M and I lived down in Tejas, I became acquainted with Rancho Gordo, Steve Sando’s Napa, California based magnum opus of heirloom goodness, and specifically, with their heirloom beans – If you don’t know about them, y’all should. Steve took frustration with a lack of great local produce (while living in Napa, fer cryin’ out loud) from a gardening whim to a full blown conservation operation, and Rancho Gordo is the result. What Home roasting brought to coffee beans, Steve brought to heirloom beans. He writes, ‘All of my agricultural pursuits have been based on being someone who likes to cook but gets frustrated by the lack of ingredients, especially those that are native to the New World.’ What I learned living and cooking down south was a primal love for all things culinarily Mesoamerican, and frankly, no foodstuff speaks to that more clearly than beans do. Like tomatoes, beans were devastated by the green revolution, and it’s only through the tireless work of folks like Steve that we’re blessed with what was and what shall be, if we’re even halfway smart.

Rancho Gordo’s heirloom Eye of the Goat beans
Rancho Gordo’s heirloom Eye of the Goat beans

And now, on to Gloria’s Turkey Chile Verde with Heirloom Eye of the Goat Beans and Homemade Salsa Verde. What I love about this, and I mean dearly love, is what she has to say about the genesis of this recipe, because folks? If you’ve been here at all, you know my mantra – Here’s a recipe, try it, and then do what you like to it and make it yours – That’s exactly what she did.

She writes, ‘I got the idea for this dish from Coco Morante’s “The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook,” but I modified it quite a bit. For one thing, I made my own roasted tomatillo and poblano and serrano chile salsa instead of used store-bought salsa, and for another thing I used heirloom Ojo de Cabra beans instead of canned pinto beans.’

Gloria’s glorious Turkey Chile Verde with Heirloom Eye of the Goat Beans and Homemade Salsa Verde.
Gloria’s glorious Turkey Chile Verde with Heirloom Eye of the Goat Beans and Homemade Salsa Verde.

For the tomatillo salsa.

1 1/2 Pounds Tomatillos
5 cloves Garlic cloves
2 Poblano chiles
2 Serrano chiles
1 bunch Cilantro

Remove papery husks from tomatillos, rinse well, and cut in half.

Rinse chiles and cilantro. Stem serranos and rough chop. Rough chop cilantro

On a foil lined baking sheet, arrange tomatillos cut side down, along with the unpeeled garlic cloves.

Position an oven rack 5” to 6” under your broiler. Broil for 5-7 minutes, turning evenly, until tomatillos are lightly blackened.

Remove from oven, set aside to cool.

Arrange poblanos on a foil-lined pan, place them under a broiler until blackened all around.

Transfer poblanos to a a paper bag with the top folded closed. This allows the cooling chiles to steep in their own steam as they cool, which adds a bit to their flavor, and helps loosen the skins – You can also do this in a baking dish or casserole with a tight fitting lid.

When the poblano are cool enough to handle, remove the skin, stem, and deseed.

Skin the roasted garlic.

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender, and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and evenly mixed.

Transfer to a mixing bowl or glass jar.

For the beans.

1 Lb Eye of the Goat Beans (Yes, use what you’ve got, but honestly – Try these!)
8 Cups Water
3 cloves Garlic, trimmed and peeled
2 Bay Leaves
2 tsps Sea Salt

Gloria cooked her unsoaked beans in an Instant Pot, with all ingredients shown, for about thirty minutes, and used three cups of the cooked beans for this recipe.

If you don’t have an instant pot, the oven method works great and is pretty speedy to boot.

Set a rack in a middle position and preheat oven to 325° F.

Rinse beans in a single mesh strainer or colander, checking for debris.

Add beans, garlic, bay, and salt to a 4 quart (or larger) dutch oven, braiser, or baking dish with a tight fitting lid.

Add enough fresh water to cover the beans by 1”.

Cover and bake for 60 – 75 minutes. When beans are slightly firmer than you want them, they’re ready to go to the next step.

For the Chile Verde.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Pound ground Turkey
3 Cups cooked Beans
1 3/4 Cups Salsa Verde
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 medium Onion
1 bunch fresh Cilantro
2 Poblano or Anaheim chiles
2 Serrano chiles
3 cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
½ to ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Chile flake

Peel, trim, and dice onion, garlic, and chiles. Rinse and chop 1/4 Cup cilantro.

For an Instant Pot-
Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and heat the oil.

Add the turkey and sauté, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks, for about 5 minutes, until cooked through and no traces of pink remain.

Add the onion, chiles, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes, until the onion has softened and is translucent.

Stir in the beans, salsa verde, and broth.

Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing.

Press the Cancel button to reset the cooking program, then select the Bean/Chili setting and set the cooking time for 20 minutes at high pressure.

Let the pressure release naturally for at least 10 minutes, then move the Pressure Release to Venting to release any remaining steam.

Open the pot and stir in the chopped cilantro.

For stove top cooking –
Add oil to a stock pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Add turkey and sauté until lightly browned and no pink remains, about 4-6 minutes.

Transfer meat to a mixing bowl. Add onion and chiles and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until onion begins to turn translucent. Season lightly with sea salt.

Add garlic and sauté until the raw garlic smell dissipates.

Add chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all the good stuff.

Add beans, salsa verde, meat, salt, oregano, cumin, and cayenne and stir well to incorporate.

Reduce heat to medium low and cook, covered, for at least 1 hour, and more is fine.

Add cilantro, stir to incorporate, and serve.

And of course, Big Thanks to Gloria for this delightful dish!