Chile Verde

My work has a cafeteria that serves some pretty crappy (ie healthy) food: low salt, low fat, low flavor.  I don’t blame the place.  I mean it is a hospital after all.  How can such a place justify serving the very type of food that contributes to obesity and all the associated conditions that causes people to wind up in the hospital in the first place.  Nothing is fried.  Everything is baked.  I’m actually used to the food now and it’s not so bad.  Once in a while they serve a not-so-healthy chili verde made with some pretty darn fatty pork.  With a side of frijoles, red rice, and tortillas, you’d think you were eating out of your abuelita’s kitchen.  I’m not sure how they sneak this past the health nuts the cafeteria menu.  So therein lies the inspiration for this dish.

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Happily, I was able to find all the necessary ingredients at my local Asian grocery store.  Why would you ever need tomatillos or poblano peppers in Asian food?

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Normally, tomatillos come in a papery husk, but these came sans husk.DSC09994

The base of the chili is compromised of roasted tomatillos, peppers, and garlic.DSC00001DSC00002

The roasted ingredients are blended with cilantro and jalapeños.DSC00007DSC00015

I tried to find a well marbled pork butt.  Not sure what cut is used in the cafeteria’s version, but this was certainly leaner.DSC09995

The pork is seasoned with salt and pepper and browned in batches.DSC09999DSC00004

The browned pork is combined with the tomatillo mixture and stewed for 2 hours.

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Chili Verde
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves 6

1 pound tomatillos
5 garlic cloves, not peeled
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
1 Poblano chiles (optional)
1 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
3 pounds pork shoulder (also called pork butt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tbsp of dried oregano
1 can chicken stock
Pinch of ground cloves (optional)

  1.  If your tomatillos come with the husk, remove them and rinse well.
  2. Cut in half and place cut side down, along with 5 unpeeled garlic cloves, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 10 minutes or until the skin becomes lightly blackened. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle.
  3. If you want the additional flavor of chilies other than jalapenos, you can add a couple Anaheim or poblano chiles. Either use canned green chiles or roast fresh chilies over a gas flame or under the broiler until blackened all around. Let cool in a bag, remove the skin, seeds, and stem.
  4. Place tomatillos, skins included, into blender. Remove the now roasted garlic cloves from their skins, add them to the blender. Add chopped Jalapeño peppers, other chilies (if you are using them), and cilantro to the blender. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed.
  5. Season the pork cubes generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat and brown pork chunks well on all sides.  Work in batches so that the pork is not crowded in the pan and has a better chance to brown well. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, lift pork out of pan and place in bowl, set aside.
  6. Pour off excess fat, anything beyond a tablespoon, and sauté onions and garlic for about 5 minutes.
  7. Add browned pork and chili verde mixture and gently mix until combined.  Add the oregano to the pan.  Add the chicken stock (enough to cover the meat). Add a pinch of ground cloves. Add a little salt and pepper. (Not too much as the chile verde will continue to cook down and concentrate a bit.)
  8. Simmer half covered until pork is tender, ~2 hours.

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I suppose I am no expert in chili verde, but I was quite pleased with the results here.  It didn’t quite taste like the cafeteria version being made with higher quality pork and having a stronger tomatillo flavor, so fairly acidic.  I would cut back on the amount of tomatillos next time just to get a more well rounded flavor so 1 lb instead of the 1.5 lbs I used.  As with all stews, the longer this sits around, the better it tastes!  Bon appetit!

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