~ Hatch Green Chile Chili with Pork and White Beans ~
Having traveled to Mexico and New Mexico, I've eaten green chili a few times -- twice "as is", out of a bowl with tortilla chips, and once, burrito-style (wrapped up in a flour tortilla with avocado, scallion, cilantro and crema). It was excellent -- different, but excellent. That said, each time I ate it, I secretly wished there were beans in it -- and maybe a little jalapeño Jack cheese added to the latter one too. Today's the big day. White beans are going into my green chili and I can't wait. In many regions of Mexico and New Mexico I'd be cast out on the streets for this, but, within the confines of my Pennsylvania kitchen, I am the chili-verde-with-pork-and-beans-queen.
Native to Northern Mexico, chili verde (green chili) is a green-colored, slow-simmered, broth-based stew made with pork butt, green chile peppers, onions and a variety of herbs and spices. For a citrusy tang, lime juice is typically squeezed over each portion just prior to serving, and, other versions include tomatillos too, for a more pronounced tang, and, a deeper, more complex flavor. No two cooks make it the same way, so, don't fall prey to recipes claiming to be authentic.
Mexican and New-Mexico-style red chili recipes use red ingredients: red chiles or red chile powder and/or red tomatoes. Their green chili recipes use green ingredients: green chiles or green hatch chiles and tomatillos. A common misconception is: green chili is mild and red chili is hot. Not true. Both range from mild-and-soothing to knock-your-socks-off hot.
In New Mexico chile peppers grow in abundance everywhere. It's believed they were brought to NM, from Central America, by the Spanish, in the 1500's. The most common New Mexican chile is long, narrow and picked while green and is mostly grown from much-coveted heirloom seeds.
"New Mexico chiles" can be from anywhere in New Mexico, and, when buying any green or red NM chiles, they're usually offered up as mild, medium, hot, or extra hot, meaning: not as a specific variety. That said, the Hatch chile is from Hatch, a small village in the southern part of the state, and, while it's not a variety of chile pepper, both inside and outside the state of New Mexico, it's sold as a "Hatch chile". It's become so popular that every Labor Day weekend, Hatch, known as the Chile Capital of the World, hosts the Hatch Chile Festival, which draws more than 30,000 people each year.
"Tomatillo", also called "tomate verde", means "husk tomato" with "verde" meaning "green" in Spanish. The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, which, while related to the red tomato family, and remarkably similar in appearance to the green tomato, cannot be used interchangeably with green tomatoes. It's a staple in every Tex-Mex gardener's garden. The fruit of the tomatillo is green and relatively small compared to red tomatoes (about the size of a large, cherry tomato). They grow to maturity inside of an inedible husk (which gets disgarded), and, range in color from pale green to light brown. The tomatillo is a staple in Mexican ethnic cuisine.
That said, here in Happy Valley, fresh tomatillos are sometimes hard to find, and, even when I find them, it's always a bit of a hassle to ask the produce manager if I can peel back the husks to insure the fruit is firm (not squishy) and ripe (green).
In case you don't know, always look for tomatillos that have filled their husks or broken through their husks (photo to right) -- no matter their size, this means they're fully mature. Avoid tomatillos that look withered or dried out (see photo below).
Once you get them home, remove the husks and rinse the tomatillos off (because they will be sticky), then use them as directed (which typically requires simmering or broiling as the first step) and/or store in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life. That said, high quality canned tomatillos are a staple in my pantry. They've already been simmered until soft -- all I have to do is thoroughly drain them. Speaking in approximations, I've deduced:
one 28-ounce can = 2 pounds fresh
"Pork butt" or "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog. Smoked or barbecued, Boston butt is a southern tradition. This cut of meat got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:
Butchers in Boston left the blade bone in this inexpensive cut of pork shoulder then packed and stored the meat in casks called "butts". They sold the pork shoulders individually to their customers, and, when they got popular, they began shipping "the butts" Southward and throughout the Colonies. Simply stated: the way the hog shoulder was butchered, combined with "the butt" they arrived in, evolved into the name "Boston butt".
Today's the day. White beans are going into my green chili.
1/4 cup corn oil
2 ounces restaurant-style tortilla chips, crushed to crumbs (a generous 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon sea salt, total throughout recipe, 2 teaspoons for seasoning pork cubes and 1 teaspoon for seasoning veggies
5 cups medium-diced yellow or sweet onion
3 cups medium-diced green bell peppers
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground jalapeño pepper
1 cup fine-chopped fresh cilantro
1 28-ounce can tomatillos, drained of excess liquid without "squishing" the moisture out of the soft tomatillos
1 16-ounce jar Santa Fe Seasons Hatch Green Chile, hot or mild
3 cups chicken stock
1 40-ounce can great northern beans, undrained
~Step 1. Remove pork butt from packaging. Trim off bottom fat layer. Starting at the bone-free-end, cut it into 3/4"-1"-thick steaks, then, cut each steak into 1"-1 1/4" chunks. When you get to the bone-in-end, do your best to cut around the bone, once again, cutting the meat into 1"-1 1/4" chunks. As you work, discard any chunks that are almost all fat. When finished, there will be 4+ pounds of trimmed, nicely-marbled pork butt. The goal is to have well-marbled pieces, not, fat-laden chunks.
~Step 2. Place and heat the 1/4 cup oil in a 14" chef's pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork cubes and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the sea salt. Adjust heat to sauté, using a large spatula to stir frequently, until meat is lightly-browned on all sides, and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pan, about 18-20-22 minutes. Turn the heat off. Using a large slotted spoon or spatula, transfer meat to a large bowl and briefly set aside.
~Step 3. Immediately after transferring the meat to a large bowl, use a kitchen scale to weigh 2-ounces of restaurant-style tortilla chips and place them in a ziplock bag. Using a small rolling pin, crush the chips to crumbs. Add the chip crumbs to the meat in the bowl. Using a large spoon, stir to evenly coat the meat in the crumbs. Set aside.
~Step 4. Reheat the drippings remaining in the pan over low heat. Add the onions, bell peppers and dry spices (cumin, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, jalapeño pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt). Using a large spoon, stir to coat the veggies in the spices, adjust heat to medium and cook, stirring almost constantly, until vegetables are softened, 5-6 minutes.
~Step 6. Partially cover the pan and simmer gently for 2-2 1/2 hours, stopping to stir occasionally every 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pan and allow to steep for 2-2 1/2 hours, to allow the flavors to marry, prior to serving, or, refrigerate overnight prior to gently reheating on the stovetop and serving the next day. As it is with all chili recipes, overnight is awesome.
Topped w/lime, green onion tops, cilantro, avocado & crema:
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 14", 7-quart, chef's pan w/straight deep sides & lid; spatula; large slotted spoon; kitchen scale; 1-gallon ziplock bag; small rolling pin
Cook's Note: Like recipes for chili verde, enchiladas are a Tex-Mex specialty that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them too. In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn or flour tortillas that have been dipped in a roasted Hatch green chile and tomatillo-based sauce. The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to". To learn more, read my recipe ~ New-Mexico-Style Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)