Chile Verde con Patatas

Adapted from Superbowl Sunday Dishes, Cooking Secrets of the CIA’s (Culinary Institute of America), recipe for “New Mexico-Style Green Chile and Pork Stew with Potatoes,”  I have tweaked the original recipe and renamed it “Chile Verde con Patatas,” (Green Chile with Potatoes) which is essentially a green chile version of a New Mexico-style green chile and pork stew, but with potatoes as one of the major ingredients.  According to southwestern regional culinary folklore, it is quite common for “New Mexico” green chile to have potatoes added.  In the southwestern region, “old school chile” is typically very basic green chile containing common ingredients composed of green chiles, potatoes and ground beef, and perhaps some added stock or water. In Texas specifically, chili (red) often has masa added as a thickener, so potatoes aren’t that far off the mark as an ingredient in next door neighbor New Mexico.

Of course, there are many who maintain that once you add potatoes, you have crossed the line from “chile” into the realm of “stew.” Even so, once you have “chili(e) with potatoes,” you haven’t really removed the intrinsic chile-ness, but it is certainly different from most people’s expectations of chili. Or chile. (See the “chili” vs “chile” discussion here)  Some chile afficionados will tell you the real recipe for “chili” is “take everything you can find in your fridge, especially what’s about to go bad, cook it all day, then add your version of capsaicin-laden peppers and/or sauce to mask and/or change the other flavors.”  Like many of today’s accepted mainstay recipes, chile has its origins in the pioneer era as a food of necessity — as in “necessity is the mother of invention,” and most likely its original creators cared not a whit about their chile’s authenticity.  And that continues to this day. Essentially, as the chef, you can put whatever you want in your chile. It may not be  “traditional” or “authentic,” in the true sense of the definition, but it’s your version, and creativity is often at the heart of a well-prepared dish. Sometimes as a chef one simply has to “dare to be different.”  And as always, your target culinary audience is the bottom line – friends, family, “some like it hot,” “some don’t, etc.  One of  the marks of a succesful chef is one who prepares recipes and meals knowing who the consumers will be, as well as their culinary likes and dislikes.

That having been said, this is quite a departure from the “pork green chiles” I’ve had in the past.  I’ve sampled green chile all over the country, but it was at a recent stop at Charlie’s Bakery & Cafe in Las Vegas, NM that I first encountered a bowl of green chile with potatoes.  Admittedly it was quite good – a bit different than what I was expecting, but quite good nonetheless.  It was later I ran across the “CIA” version of pork stew with potatoes, so it seemed the planets were lined up for me to give this one a go.  Given the ingredients of poblanos, jalapenos, chili powder and tabasco, the heat level on this one might be a tad high for some, so be forewarned.  (See Chef notes below) So – if you don’t want the males in your family to suddenly begin speaking in a soprano voice, or the others running for the nearest fire extinguisher, you may want to cut back or substitute some of the green chiles/sauce for some milder versions.

Chile Verde con Patatas 

Prep Time: 1 hr

Cook time: 1 + 30

Total Time: 2 +30

001INGREDIENTS:

2 tsp vegetable oil (olive oil or canola oil may also be used)
3 lbs boneless, lean pork, cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces

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2 large onions, coarsely chopped/medium diced
7 cloves garlic, minced

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4 cups chicken stock (or broth; See Chef Notes below)

stocks
1/4 cup tomato puree (plain tomato paste can be substituted, just add a little water to thin it down)

3-9 Poblano peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Note: If you want more heat, don’t seed the peppers.

1 TBSP ground cumin
2 tsp ground Mexican Oregano (usually available in the Tex-Mex or spice section at most grocery stores, or at Latino markets)

Note: There are two types of oregano:

mediterranean_mexican_oregano1Mediterranean oregano: is a member of the mint family.  It grows in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.  It’s sometimes called wild marjoram.  Mediterranean oregano has a robust, savory, peppery flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Greek or Italian cuisines.

Mexican oregano: is a member of lemon verbena family. It’s native to Mexico and grows throughout Central and South America.  It is sometimes called Puerto Rican oregano.  Mexican oregano has a vibrant, citrusy tang and slight licorice flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Latin American and Tex-Mex cuisines.

 

2 TBSP mild red chili powder
2 Jalapeno chiles, (seeded if desired), minced fine
2 TBSP McIlhenny’s green Tabasco sauce (or regular Tabasco if preferred)
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
2 tsp salt
5-6 unpeeled Red Bliss potatoes – or any other red potatoes of your choice – cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Warm flour tortillas, grated Monterrey Jack cheese, Queso Fresco crumbled, and sour cream as accompaniments

PREPARATION:

Roast and prepare the Poblano peppers.  For hints on this step, see my discussion here.

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Heat 2 TBSP of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  When the oil becomes thin and you can see it begin to ripple a bit and you can smell the fragrance, add the pork, and saute until browned. Don’t overcrowd the pieces, you may have to cook them in two-three batches.

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Remove the pork and place in a 7-quart heavy saucepan or dutch oven.

Saute the onions and garlic in the original saucepan – add more oil if needed.

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Add the cooked onions and garlic, broth, tomato puree, poblano chilies, cumin, oregano, and chili powder to the dutch oven which contains the pork.

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Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

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Add the jalapenos, Tabasco, vinegar, salt and potatoes.

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Cook, covered, at a low simmer, for about 20-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

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Add salt and pepper to taste if needed

Serve in bowls with your choice of accompaniments.

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This is a tantalizingly exquisite pork chile/stew!

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Today I was in the mood for some Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar for my topping.

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As always, the best way to wash down a pork green chile dish is with a cold beer alongside!

Chef Notes

Preparation/Cooking time – The original recipe did not specify preparation or cooking times, so I developed my own as I went along. Given the fact that you have to not only do veggie prep, but also roast and prep the poblanos (roasting, steeping, peeling, chopping), you’re looking generally at about an hour prep time.  Once you get the poblanos on the grill, you can prepare the other veggies while they are roasting.  And of course, once you get them covered for steeping, there’s another good 30 minutes you can utilize for prepping the other ingredients.  (As the first cooking segment is 1 hour, don’t cut up the potatoes until just before you need them for the second cooking segment) The recommended cooking time seems about right – 1 hour before you add the final ingredients, but even so, I added a few minutes to the final cooking segment, i.e., 30 minutes instead of 20.  Check the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork before you declare it’s “done.”

To Broth or Stock, that is the questionChicken stock tends to be made more from bony parts, whereas chicken broth is made more out of meat. Chicken stock tends to have a stronger taste and richer flavor, due to the gelatin released by long-simmering bones. To most ordinary, everyday chefs and cooks like you and I, the terms are pretty much interchangeable,  In theory the essential difference is in the basic ingredients, but in practice it boils down more to its intended use.  Bones create the basis for stock, and typically includes necks, backs and often wingtips,  all of which are rich in natural gelatin, giving the stock its full-bodied character. Chicken broth, on the other hand, is more likely made using a whole chicken or bone-in chicken pieces. (Mine is made with the leftover bones and meat from split-chicken breasts after I have removed the breast meat.)  This blurs the theoretical distinction, because the stock contains “meat,” and the broth contains some “bone.” Nonetheless, you won’t go wrong using either one.

Use of Saute Pan, Stockpot, etc. – Not sure why the original recipe calls for the use of two different pans – first a saute pan, then move everything to a stockpot.  As I always like to prepare the recipe the first time as true to the original as possible, I did it this way.  However, from now on, I will do the initial browning of the pork in my stockpot, reserve it, then saute the onions and garlic in the same pot.  Then the pork can be added back into the pot. I think this way you preserve all the flavors best, and I really don’t see the need to use separate pans.  Also – regarding the stockpot size – a 4-qt stockpot/dutch oven is recommended, but I can tell you for sure – especially if you opt for the additional broth/stock, you will be better off using a 7-qt dutch oven instead of the recommended 4-qt size.

The Chiles – Types, hotness, and “to seed or not to seed.” Simplest way to “tone down the burn” is to seed the chiles, removing both seeds and membranes.   If you want it hotter however, there’s a variety of things you can do: add more jalapeno peppers, more poblanos peppers, or a spicer variety of tabasco.  If you want the full flavor of the green chiles, don’t seed them.  And if you really want to go crazy, try some serranos, or even a habenero or two.  But remember – this recipe is inherently pretty warm in itself.  You should probably prepare it once, see how you like the “hotness” level and go from there.

Liquidity – The orignal recipe calls for 4 cups of broth/stock, but I prefer much more “liquidity” in my chiles/stews/soups.  If you want your chile to have more of the character of a “pork stew,” (thicker) then stick with the recommended 4 cups of broth/stock.  If you want it to have more of a “soupier” (thinner) character, then add the additional 2 cups for a total of 6.

Salt & Pepper – Like many recipes the original version called for a measured amount of salt, and there was no mention of salting/peppering the pork before cooking. Which is think is a bit of blasphemy…I mean who would think of browning pork without sprinkling it with a bit of salt and pepper beforehand?  In any case, go ahead, add the amount of salt recommended in the recipe, but I would also recommend salting/peppering the pork before cooking, and then the entire dish to taste as you develop the recipe.

Substitutions – Try a little variety by substituting 2 – 15.5 oz cans of Hominy instead of potatoes.  Although  potatoes are what makes the essence of this dish what it is, there’s nothing in the “chile rule book,” that says you can’t use hominy instead.  For another example of chile which uses hominy, check out my Chicken Posole Verde.

Garnishes, Accompaniments & Toppings – Like most Mexican offerings, the choices of toppings are practically endless and cheese, sour cream, or chopped onion  are the more typically used ones.  For me, a cold beer and a warm flour tortilla with a little butter is perfect. And don’t forget those saltine crackers, which go with almost any kind of chile (or chili).

 

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Buon Prevecho!

Adapted from New Mexico-Style Green Chile and Pork Stew with Potatoes, Superbowl Sunday Dishes, Cooking Secrets of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), p93.

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