Sunday, November 22, 2015

Transition: Little Compton Poblanos Make A Southwest Classic

One of the first gifts from Little Compton farmers markets—namely, Young Farm—that I received when I returned from my years in Tucson was poblano peppers. As you know, these are a favorite of mine, and the only choice, in my opinion, for chiles rellenos.. I promptly roasted, peeled, and froze them (although, yes, I did make one chile relleno for myself), in part so that I might use them in the future to make something for the person who brought them to me, my friend Anne.

Some weeks later, when Anne was coming for dinner, it seemed that putting them into a Southwest favorite of mine, pork green chile, known simply as “green chile” in most locales, would be nice. I usually use Hatch chiles for green chile, having come to believe that this dish is Hatch chiles’ true calling—but figured poblanos would be just as nice.

For those who don’t know, green chile is a kind of very soupy, minimalist stew. It is important, I think, to honor that, and not be tempted to put in potatoes or other common stew ingredients--even onions are controversial. A good green chile is an intense, rich, and hot-but-mellow marriage of pork and chile.  That is its essence, and its glory.

Green chile is versatile. In the Southwest, you will see it topping all kinds of things, from eggs to tacos and burritos to chicken.  I like it in a bowl, pure and on its own.  Some toritllas or even good white bread on the side for the heat if needed, sort of like serving chile.  I am not averse to having it over rice, as long as there is lots of delicious gravy.

The green chile I made with the Little Compton poblanos was fine. Good, but not great. The poblanos simply do not meld and mellow into the pork in quite the same way as their thinner-walled, differently flavored Hatch cousins do. It seems that this is another instance where a substitute really alters a dish, at least for those who have a basis of comparison. So: poblanos for chiles rellenos, Hatch for green chile. I think you—and also I, now that I am back home—will have to mail order Hatches from New Mexico next season if we want to savor the true taste of a great green chile.

(Pork) Green Chile

Start with a few chiles, and add more to taste; chiles vary in hotness from season to season, and planting area. You will likely use 1-2 cups, chopped. Please use only a pork shoulder/Boston butt, preferably with bone in (increasingly hard to find) so you can get the depth and complexity of flavor that characterizes the best examples of this dish. Serves 8.

4 lb Pork shoulder or Boston Butt, preferably bone-in (which may weight a bit more). This is often labeled as a half a butt.
3 T Lard or vegetable oil
3-8 Hatch (or poblano) chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled, and chopped
3-4 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
3-4 large tomatillos (around a pound or a bit more), husked and halved, or 1 16 oz can prepared tomatillos
6 c light chicken stock or water (if water, add 1 envelope Goya pork seasoning)
salt to taste
cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Trim and cut the pork roast into small cubes, about 1.”  In a heavy Dutch oven, sear the meat  (and the bone if you have it) in the lard or oil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic and tomatillos; cook a few minutes til softened without browning. Taste your chiles for heat; if quite hot, add just a few of the well-chopped  (nearly mushed) chiles and the broth  or water; bring to a low boil then reduce the heat, partly cover, and simmer for an hour.  Remove the bone. Taste, and add additional chiles if more heat is desired. Continue to cook another ½-hr to 1 hr until you have a largely homogeneous but fluid chile-gravy and very tender pork. Season with salt as needed. Serve in bowls with chopped cilantro and tortillas.

No comments: