Green Chili: Okay or weird?

There’s a chili recipe I love making. I love it so much that in order to make it in northern Canada, I will mail order catering-size cans of tomatillos. Yes, I’m talking about chili verde, that lovely mix of tomatillos, green chilis, cilantro and pork that I can’t get enough of.

All the same, I’ve had people look at it, make a doubtful face, and say, “When I think of chili I think of beef… and it’s red.” The last time I made it one of my brothers was there, and he was game to try it, but a bit puzzled by the ingredients, until I fried the chili powder and cumin. “Well, it smells like chili, anyway,” he commented. (Side note: he cleaned up the finished product.)

I’m sorry to have to admit that I didn’t use the Hatch chilis that are almost mandatory for this dish. The local IGA had only Anaheims, which fulfilled the function of being long and green, but purists would never, never… To someone from New Mexico, chili verde without Hatch chilis is like a sundae without the banana.

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The other vital ingredient (for me) is the tomatillos I mentioned earlier. These are closely related to Chinese gooseberries (Physalis), and the flower Chinese lanterns. All three have a small round fruit inside a papery case, which is slightly sticky to the feel. (If you’ve ever peeled this casing off tomatillos, you end up with sticky fingers. Of course, with canned tomatillos this isn’t a problem.)

The secret advantage that tomatillos have over green tomatoes is a high pectin level, which works as a thickener for your pork stew. (If you have green tomatoes, though, use them. They make a really good stew.) With tomatillos in the mix, I didn’t need to add another step, but I did it anyway – I mashed half my beans before adding them. I like the way it brings out the beany flavour.

Since my recipe has pinto beans and corn kernels in it, you could leave out the pork and have a respectable veggie chili. I’m not sure where the wisdom is on complete proteins these days, but it used to be that corn and beans together formed a whole protein, and that was healthy. I should ask a vegetarian.

The recipe I use for ths is a bit complicated, and the woman I learned it from during my time in California fed a large extended family with it, so feel free to simplify. I’m also going to give a recipe for cornbread and a salad I’m very fond of, especially with earthy stews like this one.

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Chili Verde

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 2hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 lbs (1 kg) pork shoulder, trimmed and cut up small
2 large onions, chopped
2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large, fresh green chill, chopped (Anaheim, Hatch, or poblano)
1 – 2 smaller fresh green chilis, chopped (jalapeno or serrano)
4 oz. (125 g) can chopped green chili (optional)
2 Tbs chili powder
1 Tb cumin
2 bay leaves
2 – 3 c. (500 – 750 ml) apple juice (You could also use stock or water. I like the flavour juice gives.)
2 16 oz. (450 g) cans beans (pinto for preference)
3/4 c. (180 g) chopped tomatillos (if fresh, grill them first)
3/4 c. (180 g) corn kernels
1 bunch cilantro (coriander leaves)

Garnishes: sour cream and chorizo sausage.

Fry the pork until browned here and there, then season and put it aside. Add more oil to the pan if it needs it, and put in the fresh chilis and the onion. Once they’ve softened, add the garlic and canned chilis and some salt. Fry for a minute.

Then add the spices and let them fry until you can really smell them, but don’t let them burn. Now add back the pork, then the apple juice. Let it come to the boil, stirring frequently to bring up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. (This is a more basic version of deglazing.)

Then turn the heat down, add the corn, tomatillos and bay leaves. Mash half the beans if you want to, and add them to the stew. It will need at least an hour to cook. (I often add the stems of the cilantro if I have a big bunch, just to make the stew greener.)

When the pork is tender, take the pot off the heat and add the chopped cilantro leaves. Some people add a little white wine or cider vinegar now, but that’s a personal preference.

Serve with sour cream and chorizo.

PS – When I lived in California you could buy chorizo sausagemeat without any casings. If you don’t live in California, either skin some chorizo and fry it or buy the precooked sausages in the deil section and cut them into thin slices which you can warm. (This was my brother’s idea, and they are better warm than straight out of the fridge.)

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Cornbread with Cheese

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 c. (500 ml) cornmeal
1/2 c. (125 ml) all-purpose flour
1 Tb sugar
1 Tb baking powder (don’t forget this or you’ll have dunchy cornbread)
1 tsp salt
1/2 c (125 ml) cold butter, cubed
2 eggs
1 1/4 c. (300 ml) buttermilk (or sour milk)

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut in the butter until crumbly. Mix the buttermilk and eggs in another bowl, then add to the flour mixture and blend them together. Spread in an 8′ x 8′ (2L) cake or brownie pan, and cook at 375F (190C) for 30 mins or until the toothpick/skewer comes out clean.
PS –  I often add 1/2 c. (125 ml) of grated cheese to the mix. Also, the cornbread will more or less gritty depending on the kind of cornmeal you use. Last time I made this I used polenta meal, which is very gritty, but good.

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Mango and Avocado Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 mangoes
3 avocados
1/2 a small red onion
a small red chili, chopped
juice of 1/2 a lime
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
cilantro, chopped, to taste

Peel and cube the fruits, then add the chopped red onion, cilantro and chili. MIx up the dressing, and toss gently with the salad. This is best if made ahead and left to marinate. In fact, I first saw it in a magazine dedicated to make-ahead dishes, and tried it out of sheer disbelief. It’s a good salad to make for a barbecue.

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