How to Adapt Recipes: Chile Verde

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , January 29, 2018

How many of you are big fans of Hatch chiles? I am and for years would wait eagerly for them to appear in produce departments of San Diego grocery stores in the fall. Few had them. But that made my quest ever more diligent and I had some reliable haunts. When were in season I’d buy about five pounds, roast them, and them freeze them to use in the winter for cold-weather dishes.

But this past fall it slipped my mind. I was caring for a new puppy who broke one of his legs just two weeks after joining my household. By the time I was thinking about life outside my little world it was too late. And then came New Year’s. It was cold (for San Diego) and I wanted to make my annual Green Chile Stew, a dish my friend Laura Levy had shared with me years ago.

What to do? Hatch chiles have a distinctive smoky, earthy flavor that similar chilies, like Anaheim, don’t have. But I was craving this chile and so I started down the Google path to see what the experts would suggest as a substitute. I came across a piece written by the brilliant Tasting Table Food Lab writer J. Kenji López-Alt. It asked that very same question: Can you make a great chile verde without Hatch chilies? His answer was yes–and contends that while authenticity is nice, he’ll settle for delicious.

Once I read the piece, which also addresses technique, I decided to experiment and play with some of his suggestions, while still keeping what I love about Laura’s recipe, like adding potatoes and dredging the meat in masa. This is the kind of thing I’m sure all of you do as well. We adapt to circumstances and, in doing so, adapt favorite recipes to those circumstances. So…

1. I’m using poblano and Anaheim peppers. López-Alt suggested cubanelle peppers, but they’re not in season now and hard to find in San Diego anyway. He also brings in jalapeños and since I like some heat, in they went, too.

2. López-Alt also includes tomatillos–both for flavor and their pectin to thicken the stew. I love tomatillos and a thick stew so in they went.

3. I took up the suggestion for roasting not just the peppers, but also the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeños. You purée them together with cilantro and add to the stew. Essentially (although López-Alt doesn’t say this), you create a stunning salsa verde. So you could take the first three pieces of instruction in the recipe alone and have yourself a winning salsa verde. By the way, I have long broiled peppers (no gas stove) and then let them steam in a paper bag. I like his method of steaming them in a bowl topped by a plate.

4. I did not follow his directions for the pork, beyond salting it. I really enjoy the texture and flavor of masa-tossed and browned pork. And, to extract more smoky New Mexican flavor from the chile, I added some Chimayo chile powder I have stored in the freezer.

5. I did end up braising the stew for three hours in a low-heat oven with the lid askew to let a little steam out instead of much more quickly on the stove. And loved it–the stew cooks evenly, benefitting by being surrounded by gentle heat, and the pork becomes truly tender.

Now, that three-hour braise time ended up not working for me for New Year’s Eve because I got too late a start. So, I broke it up over two days, prepping the salsa verde first that afternoon and refrigerating it overnight. The next morning while watching the Rose Parade I trimmed the pork shoulder and salted it. An hour later I was in full cooking mode. By noon I had the chile in the oven and by 3 p.m. I enjoyed my first bowl, the house filled with its spicy, earthy aroma. The pork and theYukon Gold potatoes were as tender as you’d desire after a good braising. The chile was far spicier than I’d imagine it would be but still very enjoyable. Because it was looser than I wanted, I cooked it a little longer on the stove and added a little more masa to thicken it–but later as I was letting it cool to refrigerate it thickened on its own, so don’t worry that much if it’s soupier than you think you want.

I still love Laura’s version of her stew, but this is a wonderful variation and the science behind the changes makes sense to me.

Chile Verde
Adapted from recipes by Laura Levy and J. Kenji López-Alt
Serves up to 10

Ingredients

3 cups chopped roasted New Mexico or Hatch chilies – skins and seeds removed
OR, if not available:
5 poblano peppers
5 Anaheim peppers

2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
2 jalapeño peppers, stems removed and sliced in half lengthwise
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper
2.5 to 3 pounds cubed pork shoulder
3 tablespoons masa flour
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground Chimayo pepper
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
32 ounces chicken stock
Salt/Pepper
2 additional tablespoons masa (if needed to thicken)

Directions

1. Roast poblano and Anaheim peppers by placing them directly over the flame of a gas stove until deeply charred on all surfaces, about 10 minutes total. If you don’t have a gas burner, broil them or char on an outdoor grill. Place peppers in a bowl and cover with a large plate. Let steam for 5 minutes, then peel. Dry chilies, discard seeds and stems, and roughly chop. Transfer to bowl of food processor.

2. Preheat broiler to high if you didn’t broil the peppers. Toss tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeños with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Pour onto to rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Broil until charred, blistered, and just softened, turning once halfway through cooking, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to the food processor along with any exuded liquid.

3. Add half of cilantro to the food processor and pulse mixture until it is roughly pureed but not smooth, about 8 to 10 one-second pulses. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve (can make this the day before).

4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 225˚ F.

5. Dredge pork cubes in masa flour in plastic bag until all pieces are coated. Brown in oil in large Dutch oven or pot. Add onions and lightly cook until slightly colored (not browned). Stir frequently and scrap up brown bits from bottom of pot. Add cumin and Chimayo pepper. Stir till fragrant.

6. Add potatoes, chicken stock and pureed chili mixture to pot and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook for about three hours.

7. Remove from oven and skim excess fat. Check consistency; if it needs to be thicker slowly add a small amount (no more than two tablespoons) of masa at a time and stir until thick. You can also heat it up on the stove to a good simmer and let reduce. Too thick? Add some water. When it’s reached the right consistency for you, stir in remaining cilantro and season to taste with more salt.

8. Garnish with sour cream, diced onions, cilantro, cheese, and lime wedges. Serve with corn bread or homemade tortillas.

Note: The chile can be chilled and stored in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen. The flavors will deepen over time.

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