Saturday, December 09, 2006

Chili Verde

Chili verde with spicy rice pilaf seemed to be the perfect combination for the El Dorado Western Railway's annual Christmas Dinner last night. I needed larger portions because my mother-in-law, all three children (a rare treat these days!) and granddaughter attended with Deb and me.

This is essentially the same recipe that I posted last January in response to Sunset magazine's "traditional" chili verde with tomatoes. I tweaked the recipe by adding a large can of green chili enchilada sauce and reducing the canned Anaheim chilies to one can.


Many supermarkets stock canned tomatillos. You'll find them on the Mexican isle. Use a Lodge #10 Dutch oven or 12-inch camp oven for this recipe.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 pounds boned pork shoulder (Boston butt), fat-trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 onions (2 pounds total), cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
5 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatillos
1 (28-ounce) can green chili enchiladas sauce
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (7-ounce) can whole green chilies, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 bay leaves
Chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

Heat vegetable oil in a 7-quart cast iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, lightly season cubed pork with salt and ground black pepper. When hot, add 1/3 the pork. Turn pieces as necessary until well browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer meat to a bowl. If pot is dry, add 1 tablespoon oil. Repeat process for next 2 batches to brown pieces on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of leftover pork fat in Dutch oven. Add oil, if necessary, to bring the total to 2 tablespoons. Add onion, garlic and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 8 minutes.

Return meat and any accumulated juices to Dutch oven. Crush tomatillos with your hand and place in Dutch oven. Add enchiladas sauce, broth, chilies, bay leaves and oregano to Dutch oven. Bring chili mixture to a simmer.

Place lid on Dutch oven. Bake at 350 degrees (17 coals under oven and 8 on lid) until pork is very tender when pierced and flavors are blended, about 90 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Serve topped with cilantro leaves. Garnish with lime to squeeze over chili. Makes 12 (1-cup) or 16 (3/4-cup) servings.


Here's a recipe that's inspired by James Beard and Rick Bayless. In Beard's classic 1972 work, American Cookery, he said, "This dish has little relationship to genuine Spanish or Mexican rices."

Instead, Beard attributes its Hispanic title to the addition of tomatoes and its creation by a resourceful American cook who was "thinking of new ways to dress ordinary food."

Bayless' classic red tomato rice is patterned after the Mexican rice that we all know and love. "Red with bits of tomato, sweet with onions and garlic," said Bayless in Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.

In his bid for authentic Mexican dishes, Baylesss rice contains all the elements of good flavor: "good rice, classically made in the fluffy pilaf (fried raw rice) style, shot through with the pure essence of Mexican flavor -- even down to the sprinkling of chopped cilantro just before serving."

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups long-grain rice
1-1/2 cups salsa
4-1/4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

heat a 10-inch Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat. When hot, sweat onion and garlic until soft and a little color starts to show. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Saute rice and aromatics until rice starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning the rice.

Add the salsa and stir for a minute as the salsa sears and releases its aroma. After the salsa reduces a bit, add chicken broth, bay leaves and oregano. Season with salt and stir. Bring to a boil, stir once and place the lid on the oven.

Bake with charcoal briquettes for 350 degrees (16 briquettes on the lid and 5 underneath oven) for about 20, until done. Remove from heat and let rice set for 10 minutes. Sprinkle cilantro over rice and use a fork to fluff the rice and stir in the cilantro. Serves 12 (1-2-cup) portions.

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