Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chili Verde, Second Edition

This past Monday we went out to visit good friends Rick and Lynn at the Synergy Art and Design Studio. I took along the goods to make chili verde for our dinner and Fayme was kind enough to take pictures through the day so I could write about it.

Our hosts...

We had visited Jon’s International Market in Garden Grove, CA on Sunday to get all the parts for the chili. Most of the ingredients may be purchased at any good grocery store but Jon’s had pork on sale and I wanted to find a good piece.

First off I had to cut the pork in half so it would fit in the browning pan.

After seasoning with salt and pepper on both sides the pork was browned in a stainless steel pan with a little bit of olive oil. Vegetable oil will work fine, too.

While the pork was browning I put the big pot on the burner with three cans of chicken broth so it could begin to heat up. When the pork was browned it went straight into the pot. After the second piece of meat was browned and in the pot I put a rough chopped white onion in the pan to brown a bit in the remaining oil and fat. When the onion was almost done I deglazed the pan with a bit of broth from the pot. After that everything went into the pot.

With everything in the pot it was easy to see the liquid level and I added some water to bring the liquid up to barely cover the meat. The pan was covered and left to simmer for some time.
While the pork simmered to tender we began prepping the other ingredients.
First was removing the husks from the tomatillos and washing them.

Next the tomatillos were cut in half and put cut side down on a cookie sheet. Accompanying them were a few jalapeno chilies and a number of garlic cloves. The full cookie sheet was slid under the stove broiler and a close watch was given since I’m not familiar with this broiler. When the tomatillo skins were brown the sheet was removed and set aside for everything to cool. These could have done with some more time under the broiler.

Fayme has become really good at fire roasting chilies on the range top so she took over that task. As each chili was done it was placed into a glass bowl and a clean plastic bag was pulled over the bowl. The chilies will continue to cook inside a covered container like this and that’s just what we want.

When you look out the kitchen window this is what you see. That's Roxy on the left and Jet on the right. They love watching the strange goings on in the house.

The jalapeno chilies hadn’t browned very well under the broiler so Fayme gave them an additional blast on the range top to finish them off.
After these chilies were cool enough to handle I rubbed off the skins, cut off the stem ends, and removed the seeds.

This is probably a good time to remind folks that rubber or latex gloves are recommended when handling chilies like this. I always forget to use them and usually end up paying for my indiscretion. It may be hours later but rubbing my eyes or visiting the restroom will remind me that chilies can be HOT. There are some places you do not want chilies to go; your eyes are only one of them. You’d think I would learn…

As I was cleaning the Anaheim chilies I also gave the roasted jalapeno chilies the same treatment. Jalapeno chilies can have some good heat to them but it can also vary quite a bit from one chili to another. It’s always tricky determining the right number to add. Too little and the dish is bland, too many and everyone is breathing fire. I don’t know how but this dish turned out just about right.

By now, enough time has passed that the simmering pork has become wonderfully tender. I fished it all out of the pot with a pair of tongs and put it on the cookie sheet to cool a little.

After removing and discarding the fat, bones, and any other inedible bits the meat was shredded into bite size pieces with a fork and the tongs. The now very mouth watering meat was returned to the simmering broth in the pot.

When things start smelling good you never know who will drop in. This old girl lives up the road and occasionally wanders down to see what the neighbours are up to.

The skinned and de-seeded chilies were combined with the roasted garlic (peeled), tomatillos, and three bunches of cilantro (I chopped off about half the stem length). Whirled through a blender in a couple batches we ended up with a beautiful green sauce that was poured into the pot on the stove.

We’re almost ready to eat!

A second white onion was chopped up and the pieces added to the pot. When the onion is cooked we’ll be ready.

Right after adding the onion was a good time to do a few other herbs. Dried oregano, dried ground cumin, and dried ground coriander were added to the pot in what seemed to be good quantities. After test tasting I added a bit more cumin and some salt. We're really close now.
These little packages of herbs are available in all the grocery stores I frequent and I really like them. They're far less expensive than the name-brand stuff in jars and the quality seems to be right up there. Best of all, when a package gets too old for the spice to still be vibrant, I don't feel bad about dumping the old one and getting a new one, most of these are less than two dollars a package.

The broth was a little thinner than I wanted so I made a paste of corn masa and water and added it to the pot. When you do this be sure to mix the water and masa into kind of a thin slurry. I made it a little thick and spent the next ten minutes chasing down and squashing chunks of masa in the broth. The masa has to cook a bit to thicken the pot so be sure you don’t add it right before serving the dish.

To accompany the bowls of chili verde I chopped up some cilantro and a few green onions. There was also sour cream and some Mexican cheese. You’re on your own for what kind of Mexican cheese to use. There are a lot of different kinds and they all look very similar in the store refrigerator. I don’t know what’s what so if I pick a good one it’s purely by chance. We also had warm flour tortillas on the side.

This batch of chili verde was voted to be a resounding success. It turned out a bit spicier than the first batch but Fayme was still able to eat it. Although, I have to remember to have milk on hand for her when chili is served. It really does help control the heat.

This was really a great day with some good friends. Many thanks to Rick and Lynn for hosting us and for taking some of the leftovers. With four people the amount I made was just about right for a couple meals for everyone.

Our neighbour, Morgan, has used this recipe to make her own version of chili verde and she did something that never occured to me. It's certainly worth passing along here.
Morgan used a cut of pork that had quite a bit of fat on it. Now, fat can help the meat stay moist and flavorful but too much of it makes for a greasy dish. Morgan simmered the meat in the broth and when it was done she refrigerated the broth overnight. The next day it was easy to pick the cakes of solidified grease off the top of the broth and dispose of them. From there she picked up where she left off and continued making the dish.
The cut of meat I used had fat but not a great amount of it. It never occured to me that de-greasing the broth would be desirable for other cuts. Depending upon the cut of pork you use, and the time you have available to make the dish, this step could be something you want to do.
Thanks, Morgan!
Happy eating!