Green Chile Stew

First off, here's an excellent article about browning/searing pork from Serious Eats.

Secondly, I've just finished editing this recipe (August 2023) and feel I've added a significant amount of information and have changed the recipe just a touch. It's a happier recipe now :-)

I've made a lot of batches of green chile stew, so I've added some commentary below on what I've learned over the years. Read through it if you wish, or just jump right in! I've put what I think are my most important findings below in bold text.

The Green Chiles

Right here at the outset, let me say that canned green chiles, like Ortega, are perfectly fine to use in this recipe. There's a subtle difference when using fresh chiles and then roasting them on your own, but canned chiles make a delicious, and substantially easier pot of stew. Roasting your own fresh chiles adds a lot of love to the stew and I find it enjoyable, but it is a significant investment in time and effort.

When using fresh, use milder chiles like Anaheim or Big Jims from Hatch, New Mexico for this recipe. You can always add heat with crushed red pepper, cayenne, or chiltepines, but you can’t take the heat away.

Roasting Your Own...

If you have access to fresh green chiles, say from Hatch Chilies in New Mexico,  around the middle to end of August, roast them over an open fire. While it's a big job and can add 8 or 10 hours (for a 25 Lb box, much less than that if you just get a few pounds from the store), to your Green Chile Stew recipe, nothing beats this method for flavor and tradition. Fire up the barbecue, get the coals all glowing red and white, then roast the peppers until the skin darkens and blisters. As the chiles get done, remove them from the grill and drop them in a paper bag. Fold the bag over so the chiles steam, which sweats the chiles and helps to remove the skin. Once all of the chiles are in the bag, fold it over one last time and let it sit in an unlit oven for about half an hour.

When you're ready to de-skin, de-seed, and de-vein the chiles, go to the kitchen sink, put on a pair of rubber gloves, turn the faucet on so it runs low and cold, then one by one, remove the skin from each of the chiles, then get inside and remove the seeds and the veins, which are the structures that hold the seeds. Both the seeds and the veins are the heat sources in chiles. Even mild chiles will have some heat if a lot of the seeds and veins are left in.

Once the chiles are skinned, deveined, and seeded, lay them flat on a cutting board and dice them into small chunks, about 1/4" to 1/3" dice.

The Meat - Shred or Dice?

Use pork shoulder, (another name for this is pork butt), cut into 1-inch cubes or a little smaller. Use shoulder because 1.) the price is right, and 2.) it has a far superior flavor to loin cuts when cooked by this method, (braising.)

There are two schools of thought about meat preparation:

1. One school holds that the pork shoulder should be sliced into large chunks along the fat seams, then these chunks can be seared on all sides, and put into the stew pot to braise in the oven at low heat for several hours. When the stew is ready to serve, the large pork chunks are removed and shredded, then added back to the pot.

2. The other school maintains that the pork should all be diced into 1/2" pieces and seared in batches, and then added to the stew pot.

Both approaches work well, but I personally like the shredded texture of the pork seared in large pieces. However, if you make a large batch to freeze for future meals, the shredded pork will break down in the freezer, and when reheated, instead of having nice chunks of shredded pork, you'll wind up with shredded strands of pork throughout your stew - kind of a disappointment. So...

If you're making a small batch, say 4 to 6 servings, try the shredded style. If you're making a bulk recipe that will be stored or frozen, go with the dice and sear method.

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4-pound pork shoulder cut into half-inch cubes or into 3 or four large chunks for shredding - know that there is a bone in the shoulder cut that will weigh in at about a pound, so add up and ask for a 4 to 5-pound cut.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion sliced into 8 wedges
  • 3 to 5 cloves finely minced garlic
  • About 2 pounds of tomatillos - If using canned use at least 3 large 28 Oz cans - 3 pounds of fresh tomatillos would also work but you might need another pound of meat and a bigger pot - maybe - or just more potatoes.
  • 2 pounds flame-roasted green chilies peeled, seeded, and chopped. Ortega chiles are fine, just make sure you have at least 32 ounces of them. (That can be a lot of cans.)
  • 1 pound very ripe tomatoes of any color: coarse dice (canned are fine - Muir Glen Fire Roasted, just saying...just drain the liquid)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp or 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tsp or 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, maybe a little more
  • Small pinch of ground cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt, pepper, and heating agents such as cayenne to taste (add toward the end)
  • 2 pounds cubed potato or 2 tablespoons cornstarch blended in ½ cup water or 4 tablespoons corn flour (masa) blended in ½ cup water. I just made the recipe and used both potatoes and the masa, worked wonderfully

Roasting Tomatillos

  1. Preheat oven to broil.
  2. Peel off the outer husk and discard. Rinse the tomatillos and dry them. If you're using canned tomatillos pour them into a sieve, then rinse them and dump them onto a dish towel, wrap them, and dry them.
  3. Slice the tomatillos in half through the horizontal center and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet with the skin sides up, cut side down. Add the onions and garlic to the tray as well and spray lightly with oil.
  4. Broil for about 10 minutes until the skin side is blistering, then flip. Broil another 8 to 10 minutes until nice and brown. If you're using canned tomatillos you're not going to be able to flip them. Just let them brown and leak their juice all over the foil. Then scoop them up and put them in the processor. Next, carefully lift the foil out of the baking sheet and pour the liquid into the processor with the tomatillos.
  5. Remove and cool, then place everything in a food processor and pulse until roughly pureed. I've heard something about 10 pulses but that didn't seem enough to me. Pulse until it looks well-mixed and kind of soupy.

For The Stew

You'll be using a large frying pan/skillet to sear the meat, and a Dutch oven or very large pot to cook the stew. A 7-quart Dutch oven will become full to the top with the ingredients. It would be nice to have a 9 quart or greater Dutch oven or other type of pot.

  1. Trim the fat from the pork and reserve. Either dice the pork into 1/2-inch chunks or cut into pound-sized chunks. Season pork thoroughly with salt and pepper. Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or more.
    • (This is when you can roast the tomatillos, onions, and garlic.)
  2. Heat oil in a heavy shallow skillet until it begins to glisten, then add pork in small batches. Brown deeply on all sides. The pork must not be crowded so use a large, shallow skillet - a deep one will steam and not brown the pork. Take your time and complete this step correctly - it makes all the difference.
  3. Reserve browned pork and save a bit of the rendered fat for the rest of the recipe. 
  4. Cut the reserved trimmed fat into rough dice. Add some oil to the Dutch oven you'll be cooking the stew in, and sear until shimmering. Remove and discard the seared fat, leaving the liquid in the pot.
  5. Add ALL of the ingredients to the pot, saving the bay leaves until last. When everything else is in the pot, float the bay leaves on top and bring to a boil.
    • If simmering stovetop, cook until the pork is fork-tender, usually about 1-2 hours.
    • If braising, cover and place in 180º to 190ºF oven for 4 hours, then check meat - when done large chunks will barely hold together when raised on a fork, and small diced chunks will slit easily with a spoon against the side of the pot. You can leave it in at lower temperatures (175º - 185ºF) for up to 8 hours - maybe longer. 
  6. About 45 minutes before you want to serve the Green Chile Stew, add potato (or other thickeners if desired as described in the Ingredients section above) and season to taste. You'll want to bring the pot to a boil on the stove to cook the potatoes in less than a couple of hours.
  7. Serve with lime wedges and tortillas, cilantro, and any kind of hot sauce that you might like to add.