My first experience with Green Chile (caps intentional and used out of reverence) was about 20 years ago. I had moved to Denver from Massachusetts; the only chili I knew was the red kind with lots of overworked finely ground beef and kidney beans. It was my first autumn in the southwest, and I was captivated by this new scent of roasting chilies wafting from the roadside stands with giant signs proclaiming: “Hatch Green Chile War!” Instantly, I was like a dog on point. I could smell chilies being roasted from a mile away. All of a sudden I was pursuing Green Chiles and Green Chile stews of all kinds, and they were everywhere. It was like hearing a new word for the first time. Among my friends there was much discussion and debate; I quickly joined the fray…thick or thin, tomatoes or tomatillos, potatoes, or flour, oregano or cumin, loin or shoulder. How could I have lived twenty-some years without even a hint of such an exquisite and complex thing? Such was the plight of a turtle-necked New Englander. I quickly developed a self-proclaimed sophisticated Green Chile palate, and, being a hands-on guy, I set out to make the perfect Green Chile. What I really learned over the last fifteen or so years is that Green Chile is as individual as driving, sex, or grilling…everyone has an opinion, and if you ask them they’ll tell you that theirs is the best. Here’s my opinion (with variations on the theme).
This so-called master recipe is the basic core of a traditional (my opinion again) southwestern Green Chile Stew sometimes referred to as New Mexico Green Chile Stew, or Pueblo Green Chile Stew. The recipe has as many variations as there are stars in the Taos night sky. I always serve mine with plenty of freshly browned warm tortillas. This is comfort food at its very best.
This recipe serves 6 with great leftovers
The Pork: I use pork shoulder (another name for this is butt) cut into 1 inch cubes. I use shoulder because 1) the price is right, and 2) it has far superior taste to loin cuts when cooked in this method. I use Niman Ranch pork from Marczyk Fine Foods which comes from heirloom breeds of pigs which are raised outdoors: not in confinement conditions. This yields a superior tasting pork (yes it even matters in a stew) and more highly developed connective tissue which lends an unmistakable pleasing texture.
The Green Chilies: I always opt for a milder Chile like Anaheims or Big Jims for this recipe, because the longer you cook the stew the hotter it gets. Plus, you can always add heat with crushed red pepper or cayenne, but you can’t take it away. I have had many Green Chile stews that were simply too hot to enjoy because someone tried to perfect the heat with their choice of Chilies. My opinion is that you should enjoy a slow steady gentle burn in your mouth–which makes you want to eat more.
The Recipe: (remember, this is peasant food, so don’t stress)
- 2 pounds pork shoulder cut into one inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium yellow onions: coarse dice
- 3 cloves finely minced garlic
- 1 pound peeled and diced tomatillos OR the juice of one lime
- 2 pounds flame roasted Green Chilies peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 pound very ripe tomatoes of any color: coarse dice (canned is fine)
- 4 cups pork, chicken, or vegetable stock, or water
- Kosher salt, pepper, and heating agents such as CRP, or cayenne to taste (add toward end)
Classic additional ingredients/variations:
2 pounds cubed potato or 2 tablespoons corn starch blended in ½ cup water or 3 tablespoons AP flour blended in ½ cup water.
Season pork thoroughly with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy shallow skillet until it just begins to glisten; add pork in small batches and brown deeply on all sides. The pork must not be crowded-we use a shallow skillet for the same reason-a deep one will steam and not brown the pork. Take your time and complete this step correctly-it makes all the difference. Reserve browned pork and save a bit of the rendered fat for the rest of the recipe. In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven gently sweat onions, garlic, and tomatillos in a some of the rendered pork fat (mo’ fat mo’ flavor). Cook until all vegetables are soft. Add the rest of the ingredients including the pork and cook until the pork is fork-tender…usually about 1-2 hours. About 45 minutes before you want to serve the Green Chile Stew add potato or other thickeners if desired also, and season to taste. Serve with warm flour tortillas.