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 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.
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.
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
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)
For Garnish and service – Fresh tortillas, Pico de Gallo, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, onion, and tomato, or whatever you desire.
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.
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.
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.
Simmer for another 30 minutes to allow everything to fully marry and develop.
Serve with what you like – we did ours restaurant style, with fresh tortillas, pico de gallo, Mexican rice, and charro beans – it was incredible.