Chile verde is more than a simple stew. Pork shoulder is rendered into supple, tender meat after a slow simmer in a sauce of roasted tomatillos, peppers, cilantro, and oregano. The resulting meat and sauce can be poured over rice or tucked into a tortilla. While the salsa verde requires a little prep work up front, the rest of the cooking is hands-off, thanks to the trusty slow cooker. This is a perfect dish to perfume your house when the weather gets crisp this fall.
The base for chile verde is a roasted tomatillo and chile sauce called salsa verde. Tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family and similar in appearance to green tomatoes. Tomatillos can ripen to a yellow, green, or even purple fruit. They have a tart, fruity, almost herbal flavor that's further amplified by roasting.
Hatch chiles are traditionally used in the salsa verde for chile verde, but as they can be a little harder to find out of season, you can substitute poblano and jalapeño peppers in their place. Just be sure to roast them before making the sauce.
Pork shoulder (sometimes labeled pork butt) is the traditional cut for this Northern Mexican stew, and it is relatively inexpensive and easy to find. Cutting the pork into larger chunks reduces cooking time and also makes the resulting dish easier to eat. Brown the pork on all sides before adding it to the slow cooker for extra flavor and texture. In a pinch, you could skip this step, but do not skip roasting the tomatillos and peppers.
The slow cooker tenderizes the pork without overcooking the beautiful salsa verde that you've worked so hard to prepare. It also keeps the dish warm if people are eating dinner at different times throughout the evening (like, say, when trick-or-treaters make their way through the neighborhood). Chile verde leftovers freeze incredibly well, but that's only after you've folded it into eggs, made it into breakfast hash, or piled it onto sandwiches with a quick slaw.
How To Make Chile Verde
What You Need
2 pounds tomatillos, thin, papery skin removed, halved
1 large yellow onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 jalapeños, halved lengthwise, seeded, and ribs removed
2 fresh poblano chiles
3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
Aluminum foil or plastic wrap
Cast iron skillet
Blender or food processor
6-quart or larger slow cooker
- Roast the vegetables: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Place the tomatillos, onion, and garlic on a baking sheet. Roast until softened and golden-brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a blender or a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and set aside.
- Char the peppers: Turn the broiler to high. Place the jalapeños and poblanos on the same baking sheet. Broil until charred and blistered all over, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Let sit to 'steam' for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the seeds, stem, and skin from the poblanos, and remove the skin from the jalapeños. Add both to the blender or food processor.
- Brown the pork: Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with the salt, and brown in 2 to 3 batches until golden-brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
- Blend the sauce: Pulse the contents of the blender or food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the cilantro and oregano and pulse until mostly smooth.
- Slow-cook: Pour the salsa verde sauce evenly over the pork. Cover and cook until the pork is tender, 7 to 8 hours on the LOW setting, or 4 to 5 hours on the HIGH setting.
- Serve: Serve the finished pork chile verde over rice or in charred corn tortillas.
- Make-ahead: The salsa verde can be made and stored in the fridge up to three days in advance.
- Storage: Store leftover chile in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Freezing: Cool the chile verde completely before dividing into freezer bags. Freeze flat and use with in 3 months.