Go to any good Mexican restaurant or taqueria and you’ll likely find Chile Verde (Green Chile) on the menu. Chile Verde is typically made with pork shoulder slow-simmered in a sauce of fresh green chiles and tomatillos. (By the way, for our non Spanish speaking readers, ‘tomatillo’ is pronounced ‘toe-ma-TEE-yo’.) It makes a fabulous filling for burritos, and is delicious by itself served with tortillas, beans, and rice. When I was younger, my mission was to find the hottest Green Chile on the planet. It was my go-to dish in any Mexican restaurant. When I was very much younger, my parents took our family on a camping tour through what was once called “Indian Country” in the Southwest USA. Nowadays, that isn’t particularly politically correct, but back then you could get “Indian Country” maps from the Auto Club that included Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Colorado and Utah. We rented a little motor home and drove through the southwest desert for days on end stopping at trading posts, pawn shops, natural wonders, and Mexican restaurants. At one point we stopped to eat in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I, of course ordered Chile Verde. It was freaking HOT. Maybe it was because I was twelve years old, but I haven’t eaten anything hotter since. (Well, that’s not exactly true. There was that African Chile Shrimp I had from the shrimp truck on the north shore of Oahu, but that’s another story.) I couldn’t finish it, so we took the left-overs to go in a container and put it in the icebox of our camper. The next day, the chile had eaten through the styrofoam container and spread out over the bottom of the icebox, so maybe it was freaking hot after all. Imagine what it did to my insides.
Since I no longer eat pork, and Chile Verde is almost always made with pork, I have adapted the recipe for chicken or turkey. I use dark meat as it has more texture and flavor, and doesn’t dry out during the long simmer. I use fresh Poblano and Anaheim chiles for their complex flavor, and serranos for the heat. Tomatillos provide tang, and onions and garlic, sweetness. In a traditional Chile Verde, you simmer the pork pieces for hours to tenderize them. In this version, we make the sauce and simmer it for a while to blend the flavors before we add the meat, then add the chicken and continue simmering to finish the dish. You can control the heat by adding more or fewer serranos, but the whole point of Chile Verde is hot, so don’t be skimpy.
**You can make this dish vegan by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and once the sauce is pureed, add your favorite cooked beans and simmer for half an hour.**
As in our Salsa Verde, we will roast the tomatillos and fresh chiles first to bring out more flavor, and we’ll brown the chicken before adding it to the simmering sauce.
Chicken Chile Verde – Prep time – 30 minutes. Cook time – 90 minutes. Serves 6-8
2 ½ – 3 pounds chicken (or turkey) thigh meat cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 fresh green Poblano or Anaheim chiles,
6 fresh green serrano chiles
1½ pounds fresh tomatillos (12-14)
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano or 1 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse under cool water to remove the sticky film. Cut in half through the stems. Arrange cut side down in a foil-lined roasting pan with the Poblano, Anaheim and Serranos
Broil until the skins have blackened, the tomatillos have softened and released their juices. You will have to turn the chiles once to blacken them evenly.
While the tomatillos are roasting, warm the oil in a 4-6 quart stock pot. Saute the onion for 10 minutes until it clears and softens. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add the coriander and stir to coat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the spices become fragrant.
When the tomatillos and chiles are roasted, remove the stems and seeds from the roasted Poblanos and Anaheims and slice into strips. Chop the serranos whole. I leave the seeds in but make sure to remove the stems. You don’t need to peel them, the blackened skins add a nice smoky flavor.
Roughly chop the tomatillos saving the juice. Add everything to the pot with the onions and garlic, and stir to blend. Add the chopped cilantro, oregano, bay leaf and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, partially covered for 45 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and puree with an immersion blender until the ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. You can do this in batches with a stand blender but be careful with the hot sauce, I highly recommend the boat motor over the Waring Blender. Easier to control and you aren’t pouring boiling sauce back and forth.
Once the sauce is pureed, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken pieces in batches for 2 minutes on each side, until they are nicely browned, making sure not to crowd the pan.
As each batch browns, remove with a slotted spoon, drain, and add to the sauce. When you have finished browning the chicken, pour out all the oil, deglaze the pan with a half cup of chicken stock and add to the pot.
Bring back to the simmer and cook for another 45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Stir occasionally.