Meditation on Chile Verde

With the big Oregon State/Boise game scheduled for prime time viewing this past week, I wanted to have a big pot of piping hot Chile Verde ready when hunger hit. I am so glad for the forethought, because as it turned out for this Oregonian, the chili was the high point (no pun intended) of the night. In a nutshell, Boise controlled the game and left us in their dust. It didn’t stop there; low points kept coming when Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount decided to deck a Boise teammate for heckling him post game. The remembrance of this bungled match-up was even more unsettling as fans watched while Blount was escorted/dragged off the field, screaming and kicking like a spoiled child.
Thank heavens the Chile Verde was deliciously soothing! Although I had little doubt about that–since preparing chili, in one form or other, should be an act of love. Excellent chili is a thoughtful process that requires several steps and a certain amount of time and effort.
As far as I am concerned, the ultimate flavor of Chile Verde depends on the addition of pork. In this case, I begin with a lean sirloin pork roast and cut it into chunks. I brown it well, and allow it to slowly simmer until fork tender and the liquid has pretty much cooked away. Then, I pull it apart with a couple of forks until it falls into shreds.
While the pork browns, simmers, and stews, I launch into prepping the very easy verde sauce. I begin by husking, and simmering a dozen tomatillos for the base. When they are soft, I drain off a portion of the liquid and puree them in the blender until thick. I prep a handful of jalapeno peppers, a couple of bell peppers, and an onion into strips. (In the past, I have also used ripe and flavorful poblano peppers–instead of the bell peppers, which can be fairly bland.)
Adding separate layers of flavor to the pork intensifies the final result; so this is when the onions, peppers and garlic are added to the pork and allowed to soften. Following that, another round of seasoning is added with cumin, oregano, chili powder – and perhaps a bit of smoked paprika, which mysteriously lurks in the background. All of this is lovingly tossed together until aromatic. The tomatillo sauce is stirred in and allowed to simmer into the pork a few minutes; then the cooked beans are added, the pot is reduced to low, and barely simmered for an hour or so.
Of course, chili is always best when the flavors further develop by refrigerating overnight. Here, the tomatillos provide a tarter, more acidic flavor than the tomatoes. The amount of heat can be controlled by the removal/addition of the membrane and seeds of the chiles used. Of course, jalapenos and poblanos are hotter than bell peppers. On final, I stir in the crowning touch, a handful of chopped cilantro–which further enhances the tomatillos with a pronounced herbal-citrus bite. I like mine with a drizzle of chive crema. Be still my heart.
Chile Verde
2 1/2 pounds pork roast, cut up
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 whole onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chile powder, and/or smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
12 tomatillos, halved, 1/2 cup chopped onion, pinch oregano simmered til tender
4 – 12 oz. cans assorted beans: red, black, pink, white, etc., rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornmeal, thinned in 1/2 cup water (optional)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

In a large pot brown the pork, add onion and garlic and toss until aromatic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with water and simmer until fall apart tender, and liquid is absorbed; one hour or longer.
Prepare tomatillos: remove husks, if large cut in half; rinse and place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup chopped onion and a pinch of oregano; add water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tomatillos are soft, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Place in blender and puree; set aside.
When the pork is tender, break chunks up with a fork to lightly shred. Add peppers, onion and garlic and toss until aromatic and onion becomes soft. Add chili powder, cumin, and toss till aromatic. Pour in the tomatillo sauce and simmer briefly. Add the beans and toss to combine simmer 45 minutes; if you wish to thicken it further, stir in cornmeal thinned in water and continue to simmer until thick another 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Stir in cilantro, if desired and serve. Serves 8.
Note: for Chive Crema: stir 2 Tbsp chopped chives into 2 cups yogurt until desired consistency. Add a dash of salt and taste for seasoning. Let stand a few minutes before serving to blend flavors. ~~

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