There's nothing I love more than having a mammoth-sized batch of soup on the stove, whether it's going to serve a room full of people or supply me with a stockpile of meals. This New Mexico pork and green chile stew is the perfect candidate to make on a lazy Sunday and then live off of the rest of the week. It's spicy, savory, and hearty, and just when you think it can't get any better, it does!
I hosted a formal Christmas party last year for all our family and friends. We received plenty of nice bottles of wine from thoughtful guests, but the best hostess gift was not found at the bar but in the freezer. Tucked away between the coffee ice cream and Trader Joe's turkey meatballs was a large Tupperware along with a note: "Pork & Green Chile Stew to heat and eat. Happy Holidays! With love from Aunt Becky." What a kind gesture, I thought to myself before closing the freezer door (the same freezer, mind you, where my poor leftovers go to die.)
My future mother-in-law called a few days later asking if we received the stew. Thank goodness for the reminder because I probably wouldn't have thought about it again until next December. Upon her rave review, I pulled it to thaw. A few nights later, following a rowdy New Year's affair, my fiancé and I came home and promptly raided the fridge. We reheated what seemed like a month's worth of food to satisfy our booze-fueled cravings.
Walt tasted the stew first, after which his eyes widened as big as saucers. "What is this stuff?" he exclaimed. I snatched the bowl from him to try it for myself. Our gaze locked as we shared the moment: We had just hit gold. Delicious, edible gold. We couldn't contain our glee and practically shouted our happiness from the roof tops. Pretty soon the good word passed like wild fire and the whole Thompson clan was competing over a few rumored leftover containers of the divine creation.
Aunt Becky's stew has since become legendary, and we're all waiting patiently for December in hopes of receiving more of the prized bounty. Her secret recipe is currently still just that, a secret, but that didn't deter me from attempting my own batch to hold us all over. I'd say it was a mighty successful attempt, and until I can get a hold of Becky's unicorn tears, this version should keep us plenty satisfied.
Pork & Green Chile Stew (Chile Verde)
1 - 1 1/2 pounds fresh green chile peppers (See Recipe Notes)
8 ounces tomatillos, husks removed
2 tablespoons bacon grease, lard, or canola oil, for browning
3 1/2 - 4 pounds pork shoulder, excess fat removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 - 6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (See Recipe Notes)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 cups chicken stock, plus more as needed
3/4 pound russet, yukon gold, or white potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooked white rice or warm tortillas, for serving
Fresh cilantro sprigs, for serving
Place an oven rack a few inches from the broiler. Arrange the peppers on a sheet pan and cook, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides,15 to 20 minutes. Wrap the peppers tightly with aluminum foil in three to four bundles to steam.
While the peppers are steaming, arrange the tomatillos on the sheet pan and broil until charred, flipping once, 5 to 10 minutes. Peel and remove the skins, stems, and seeds from the peppers. Chop the peppers and tomatillos and set aside.
Heat a few tablespoons of bacon grease in a large Dutch oven over high heat until sizzling. Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working in three to four batches (do not crowd the pan) cook pork until browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl. Continue browning the remaining pork.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves and stir to incorporate, about 1 minute. Add cider vinegar to the pot and increase heat to high to deglaze the pan; scrape up any leftover browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Pour in the chicken stock and reserved peppers and tomatillos. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the pork is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (It can also be cooked in an 325°F oven.)
Peel and dice the potatoes. Add to the stew and cook until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Season stew with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with cooked white rice (my preference) or warm tortillas. This recipe gets better after one, two, and three days, so make in advance if possible.
- I used a mix of long hots, chilacas, and poblano peppers, which together pack a lot of (good) heat. You could also use milder peppers such as New Mexico (Hatch) chiles and Anaheims or hotter peppers such as anchos.
- Dried Mexican oregano can be found in Latin markets and well stocked grocery stores. It has a smoky flavor that dried Mediterranean oregano doesn't have.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)