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April, 2010

Authentic New Mexican Pork Chili Verde

By Heidi Allison

Pork Chili Verde is regional comfort food at its best: A garlicky, moderately spicy pork stew cooked low-and-slow in a rich chicken broth infused with roasted green chiles, lightly charred tomatillos and a good wallop of toasted cumin
.

This rich "bowl of green" showcases its Mexican roots in that it uses pork, rather than beef. And, tomatoes are never part of its culinary repertoire. A nice change from a Texas "bowl of red", this carnivores' dream (no beans allowed) is a stellar dish to serve men on game night. From a chef's point of view, this chili has pitch-perfect flavor pairings—the acidity of the tomatillos and hint of smoky verdant bitterness from the roasted green chiles cuts the richness of the pork, all of which is heightened by the chiles' heat. While most recipes call for puréeing raw tomatillos and adding them to the pork, this dish creates a richer depth of flavor by first roasting the chiles and tomatillos. But the real secret to its success is layering its flavors— toasted cumin seed, ground cumin, spices and chiles are added at different stages during its cooking process which produces a greater depth of flavor and complexity in the finished dish. Although labor-intensive, these extra steps are the benchmark between merely a good and great chili—this dish can’t be rushed and is well worth the extra effort!

But New Mexican Pork Chili Verde is not a one trick pony—it makes a great filling for burritos and tacos (a regional favorite served in diners in New Mexico and San Francisco), or works as a quick, hearty second meal reheated and ladled over white rice.


Authentic New Mexican Pork Chili VerdeAuthentic New Mexican Pork Chili Verde
Makes: 4 large servings

Ingredients
2 pounds pork butt (aka pork shoulder), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-2-inch cubes
1 cup all-purpose (AP) flour
1 Tbsp. kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. pork fat trimmings
1 large yellow onion, chopped into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup)
4 cups rich, homemade chicken broth

Spice Mix:
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. cumin seed
1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup roasted Salsa Verde (see recipe below)

30 minutes before serving:
½ bottle (about 2 ½ ounces) of jalapeño sauce
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 roasted, seeded and roughly chopped jalapenos (about 1 Tbs.)

Roasted Green Chili Sauce
Makes: 5 cups

2 Poblano chiles
6 large tomatillos
3 jalapeño chiles
2 serrano chiles
4 cups water
1 ½ Tbsp. sea salt
8-10 (2 ¼ oz.) garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
2 large bunches organic cilantro

Preparation:
Place the poblano chilies on the grates (2 chiles per grate) of a gas stove and turn to medium high setting. Sear the chiles until the skin is charred then rotate the chile with tongs until all sides are charred. Remove the chile from stove and roll up a clean, moist kitchen towel and set aside.

Let steam for 15 minutes, and then rub off the chile skin with your fingers. Remove stem, shake out the seeds and place into 5-quart stockpot, then set aside. Heat a medium-size, cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat add jalapeños and serranos. Sear until all sides are charred, moving chiles around the pan with tongs. Remove from pan and let cool on a plate. Remove stems and place into stockpot. Heat a medium-size, cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot and sear tomatillos until all sides are lightly charred and tomatillo feels softer, about 10 minutes. Place water, tomatillos, chiles, garlic, and cilantro into a stock pot. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and place ½ of mixture into a blender and pureé until smooth and place into a large bowl, then let cool. Repeat process with second batch. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Preparation:
Place the pork cubes in a large shallow pan and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Place flour in a 13x9-inch shallow glass pan and toss the seasoned meat until lightly coated. Shake off excess flour and set aside in a single layer on a large plate. Heat pork fat in a large cast-iron enameled Dutch oven on medium heat and cook pork cubes until brown, then turn over with tongs and brown the other side. Add onions, chicken broth and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 1 hour. Add canola oil and cumin seeds oil to 8-inch nonstick skillet and heat on medium-high heat until hot.

Cook cumin seeds until lightly brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Immediately pour into meat mixture; then add granulated garlic, cornstarch and Salsa Verde. Simmer for 2 hours, or until the pork is fork tender. Add bottled jalapeño sauce, ground cumin and black pepper cook for 20 minutes and taste for seasoning—may need to add more bottled jalapeño sauce and black pepper. Add chopped jalapeños and cook for 10 minutes more. Serve with fresh skillet cornbread and icy cold Mexican beer.

Notes from the Author: Like all chiles, this dish tastes best served the next day.