I dig the hell out of fresh tomatillos. They start out crunchy and semi-sour, but become pliable and almost sweet when roasted. You literally could take a can of store bought salsa verde and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes and turn it into a much more complex “sauce” you can use with chicken or pork. I wouldn’t recommend it though – for the most part those canned salsas are pretty shitty, so you start with crap you just end up with slightly more enlightened crap. BTW – did you know a tomatillo is not actually part of the tomato family? It’s a strawberry – maybe that’s why I like it so much. I love sour fruit. In fact, I’ve often enjoyed eating really sour tomatillos just with some Tajin. I know, sodium hell.
Anyways, if you really want go “next level” and make your own sauce for a chile verde, you’ll find it surprisingly straightforward and relatively healthy. Before I start, I will say that I do understand there are different versions of this dish and if you are in the Southwest (specifically New Mexico), putting tomatillos in your chile verde is cause for getting your ass whooped or at the very least receiving a stern talking-to. Round about those parts it is made only with New Mexico green chiles (named Hatch Chiles after a town down there) and no tomatillos. For my version I tried to find a happy medium between the tomatillos I love, the complexity that fresh roasted chiles add and the unavailability of Hatch Chiles in NorCal.
BTW, there is an Easter Egg way at the bottom of the recipe so look for it. I need to somehow force you to get through my long ass posts. Enjoy!
For Chile Verde Sauce:A dozen fresh tomatillos, husks removed, washed thoroughly and halved 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped 1 medium white onion, chopped semi-fine (think “chunk salsa”) 4 fresh Anaheim Chiles 2 fresh Jalapenos 1 fresh Poblano 4 garlic cloves 1 Tbsp. Salt 6 Limes, halved
For Pork Seasoning:1 Tbsp. Salt 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 1/2 tsp. cumin
For Pork Loin:One pork loin, about 2 lbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil for browning 1/2 tsp. cumin
Prep: Mix the pork seasoning ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Trim any large chunks of fat from the meat. If the loin was not dressed well by the butcher, there may be a flat piece of sinew that runs along one side. Place the sinew side down and run a knife to remove it the way you would the skin from a salmon fillet. Discard the sinew and cut the meat into cubes about 3/4″ in size. Spread pork loin cubes evenly on a roasting pan or cookie sheet and season generously.
Turn on your oven to High Broil. Turn on all your gas burners and start to roast the peppers directly on the flames. Multi-task by starting the tomatillos (see below) while roasting the peppers.
If you don’t have a gas oven, you’ll need to roast the peppers on a BBQ or wait until the broiler is super hot and roast under the broiler elements with the rack as high as possible.
Line a cookie sheet with foil and lay down the tomatillos, cut side down. Place cookie sheet lengthwise into the oven so that it sticks out and the door can’t close (so the broiler never turns off). Check the tomatillos frequently, shifting left/right if they are broiling unevenly. They are done when just the tops are slightly charred. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. While the tomatillos were broiling, you would have been tending to the roasting peppers. Turn and move them as necessary to roast the entire pepper. When completely charred, move peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Heat a medium-size Dutch Oven (I used my 5 Qt. Oval Le Creuset) on the stove over medium-high. Brown meat in batches, adding 1 Tbsp. olive oil before each batch and transfer meat to a bowl when browned; repeat for all the meat. After last batch is removed, pour in cup of chicken broth, turn heat to high and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Let broth reduce to 50% then turn off heat. Preheat oven to bake at 325F. Wash charred skin off all peppers then cut off stems, split peppers in half and wash out all membrane and seeds.
Put the tomatillos and reserved pan juice in a food processor, along with all the peppers, four garlic gloves, the 1 Tbsp. salt and juice of five limes.
Yes, I said FIVE limes! Don’t worry, most of the sourness will cook away. Pulse repeatedly for 15 seconds, scrape down sides, then let run constantly for another 30 seconds or until fully blended.
Empty into a large bowl and add cilantro and onions and mix well. Place the Dutch Oven (with reduce chicken broth in it) on the stove at medium-high heat. Reintroduce the browned pork to the Dutch Oven, stir in two cups of the now completed chile verde and place on medium-high heat.
When sauce just starts to bubble, cover and place in the preheated oven. After 45 minutes, start checking to see if the pork is fork tender (remember to use your oven mitts for the Dutch Oven lid – it’s easy to forget and burn yourself!) It usually takes just about an hour to finish.
Resist the urge to stir as the pork will get so tender that even mild stirring can break some of the cubes in half. Serve with warm tortillas, Spanish rice and beans.
I have to admit I was so stoked to eat this shit up that I didn’t take a picture of the finished, plated product. I swear I will get better at this blogging thing.
Easter Egg: While the pork is cooking, take the remaining lime and juice it into the unused chile verde sauce. You now have a great homemade salsa verde! Serve it before dinner with some tortilla chips (Wifey loves Tostitos Brand “Hint of Lime”) and impress your friends.