Hatch Green Chile Stew
A plethora of peppers come into season every September, but for me, the most exciting is the Hatch green chile. It’s a versatile chile that can come in many different levels of heat (it’s the choose your own adventure chile), and I can’t think of a better meal that features them than green chile stew. It’s hearty, comforting, and reminds me of all the times my dad made it for me as a kid.
For this recipe, I not only pack it with a ton of Hatch green chiles, but I also include a variety of others that come into season: serranos, jalapeños, and poblanos are also in their peak around this time, and they lend their own lovely flavors and natural sweetness to the stew. Another fun deviation you’ll see in this recipe includes a trick I learned from my love of making Indian curries: the pork is not only coated in a ton of spices, but also marinated in sour cream (instead of yogurt). It works incredibly well since they both possess the same enzyme that breaks down proteins; the result is perfectly tender and meaty moments perfumed by the spices, creating textural and flavorful variation in the dish, which can be in danger of being entirely homogenous.
Hatch Green Chili Stew
2 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, cut into bite sized cubes (about an inch)
2 heaping Tbs salt
1 heaping Tbs ground cumin
1/2 Tbs ground coriander
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbs sour cream
2 lbs fresh Hatch green chiles
Note: Hatch chiles come in many different gradients of heat. Luckily, vendors tend to make it pretty clear about which ones you’re buying. The mild ones tend to be true to their classification, however once you start venturing into hot territory, you can really experience a lot of variation. Sometimes the hot ones are pleasantly spicy, and sometimes they are mean, and there’s no way to determine how hot your chiles are going to be until you’re eating them, so be warned. I like to prepare a mix of mild and hot when I make this recipe, and I usually do about 3/4 mild to 1/4 hot as my proportion.
2 large poblano chiles (or three small ones)
1 onion, skin removed, quartered
4 large tomatillos, paper removed, halved
6–8 cloves of garlic, skins removed
1/4 cup canola oil
4 cups broth (pork broth would be ideal) or water
1 Tbs Mexican oregano
2 bay leaves
1 lb potatoes, skins left on, cubed into bite sized pieces
Note: I like using Yukon golds. They can cook longer while still maintaining their structural integrity, and they are sweeter, which I think matches the flavor of the stew better. If all you can find is russets, those will still be delicious, but I’d recommend removing the skins for them. Also, keep in mind that they will cook faster and have a higher risk of completely melting into the stew if you don’t keep an eye on ‘em.
Salt to taste
Sour cream or crema
Shredded Monterey jack cheese
In a bowl, mix together the cubed pork, salt, cumin, coriander, pepper, and sour cream until all surfaces of the pork are covered. Cover and set aside to let the pork marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (I like to do overnight). Keep in mind that when you cook the pork, you’ll want it to be at room temperature before you sear it off.
To make the stew base, turn on the broiler in your oven and place the green chiles, poblanos, serranos, jalapeños, onion, tomatillos, and garlic all on a large and lightly oiled sheet tray. Make sure that a rack in your oven is right underneath the heat element, and put the sheet try in the oven. Broil for about 10 minutes, or until the majority of the skin on all of the larger chiles becomes charred and start to peel (I’d recommend rotating the tray after 5 minutes), then remove the sheet tray from the oven and flip all the chiles over. Put it back in the oven to broil for 10 more minutes, charring the other side of the chiles (don’t forget to rotate the tray after 5 minutes). Remove the pan from the oven and put all of the green chiles, poblanos, serranos, and jalapeños into a large plastic bag using a pair of tongs, and seal it to have them “sweat” and cool down for at least half an hour. Set aside the onion, tomatillos, and garlic for later when the chiles are ready.
Once the chiles have cooled down enough so that you can touch then without burning yourself, remove them from the bag and slip all of them out of their skins by running your fingers underneath any of the tears made by the charring process. Some of them will come right off, some of them will require a bit more tedious peeling effort. Be patient. After the skins are removed, open all of the chiles gently and de-seed them. You don’t need to get every seed; just get most of them. Discard all the peeled skins and seeds, then put all of the chile flesh into a blender along with the onions, tomatillos, and garlic. Blend until completely smooth, then set aside.
After this step, please, good God wash your hands. Thoroughly. You’ll forget what you were just handling for a fraction of a second and rub your eyes or something and you will suffer. I’m definitely not speaking from personal experience…
Bring a dutch oven to medium high heat, then add the 1/4 cup of oil. Once it starts to shimmer, add all of the room temperature marinated pork and sear it off until most of its surfaces are golden brown. Add the chile puree to the dutch oven along with the 4 cups of broth or water (I like to slosh some of it around in the blender to make sure that every last scrap of the chili puree ends up in the stew). Turn the stove up to high to bring your stew to a boil, then immediately turn it down to medium low heat to get it simmering. Add the Mexican oregano and bay leaves, then cover the stew with a lid. Let it simmer for about half an hour. Remove the lid and plop in your chopped potatoes . Keep the stove on medium low heat and cook covered for an hour, or until the potatoes are tender. Add salt to taste, then serve.
Serves about 8 and makes some of the best leftovers in the universe.