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August, 2009

Green Chile Sauce

By Heidi Allison

This is the classic, kick-ass, Tex-Mex roasted, green chile sauce that is served in treasured diners, drive-ins, and dives throughout Austin, Texas – it smothers burritos (aka “wet” or “saddle style”), covers enchiladas, tops any type of egg dish, and is drizzled over Austin-style breakfast tacos, which, are eaten all day long.

Green Chile Pepper
It is also the foundation of that iconoclastic, Tex-Mex comfort food that Austinites (and, anyone else who has tried it), crave —Pork Chili Verde: a garlicky, moderately spicy, pork stew cooked low-and-slow in a fresh, roasted green chili and tomatillo sauce. A signature dish that hardcore aficionado’s Fed-Ex home, this stew has pitch-perfect flavor pairings – the acidity of the tomatillo and a 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.

In Texas, there are basically two types of roasted green chile sauce— one uses roasted Hatch green chiles (hard to get all year round) and the other uses a combination of three roasted green chiles to develop that requisite complex, green chile flavor this dish demands. The finished sauce has a garlicky, smoky, rounded green chile flavor with an intriguing taste that’s hard to pinpoint. That “secret ingredient” is-- cooked cilantro.

Organic Cilantro
Yes, this recipe is completely counterintuitive to what culinary professionals prescribe about using this delicate herb— that cilantro should be used at the end of the cooking process since heat will dissipate its flavor. However, this dish proves that premise wrong – a fair amount of cilantro is called for (2 large bunches), a moist, gentle heat (it simmers in liquid) and salt, all of which act to mellow and transform, rather than strip, its strong sage/citrus flavor. It also preserves its color. Used in this way, cilantro is not overpowering. Rather, it adds a smooth and comforting back note to the sauce. Stellar served cold as a dipping sauce for warm blue or yellow corn tortilla chips, as a base for Pork Chile Verde, or as a topper for eggs. It also makes a killer cooking sauce for “wet “ burritos and chicken enchiladas.





Austin- Style Roasted Green Chile Sauce
Austin- Style Roasted Green Chile Sauce
Makes: 5 cups

2 Poblano chiles (aka Pasilla chiles)
6 large tomatillos
3 Jalapeño chiles
4 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 chiles on the grates (2 chiles per grate) of a gas stove and turn to a medium high setting. Sear the chiles until the skin is charred, then rotate with tongs until all sides are charred. Remove the chiles from stove and roll up in 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, scrape out the seeds and place into 5-quart stockpot, then set aside.

Heat a medium-sized, 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-sized, cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot and sear tomatillos until all sides are lightly charred and they feel 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 purée until smooth and place into a large bowl, then let cool. Repeat process with second batch. Good-to-go as a cooking sauce, or cover and refrigerate if using as a salsa for chips.