Try this leaner version of traditional chili verde, made with pork loin instead of pork butt (shoulder). Some recipes call for the addition of dried cumin and dried Mexican oregano, but this version forgoes dried herbs so that the assorted fresh roasted peppers, with their vegetal complexity and heat, can carry the day.
For the Chili Verde
Here’s the fun part: You can adjust the “heat” you bring to the party with your choice of chile peppers; for example, most Hatch peppers are of modest heat but are oh-so-flavorful, with heat typically falling in the 2,000-to-4,000 SHU (Scoville heat units) range—about the same as mild jalapeños. Jalapeño heat can vary widely, from 2,000 to 8,000 SHUs, while the teensy serrano, on the other hand, spikes 8,000 consistently, and the infamous ghost pepper tops a million or more. The poblano tends to be 2,000 SHUs or fewer. Go to pepperscale.com to gauge the heat of any certain variety, but remember that the heat can vary widely depending upon terroir and the particular strain of that variety.
12 assorted chile peppers (I like 6 Hatch chiles, 3 jalapeño peppers, and 3 serrano peppers; you can substitute poblanos if Hatch chiles aren’t available)
2 pounds tomatillos, husked, cored, and halved
2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and smashed
4 pounds pork loin, cut into half-inch cube
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
1 25-ounce can Mexican-style hominy, drained (I like the Juanita’s brand)
1 cup green pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
Olive oil, sea salt, pepper
Zest of 1 lime
Several radishes, slivered
Preheat oven to 500° F. Place tomatillos cut-side-down on an oiled baking sheet, add chopped onion and smashed garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. While the mixture roasts, blister the peppers over a gas flame until blackened, placing each one immediately into a metal bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let both tomatillo mixture and peppers cool.
Pour 6 cups of chicken stock into a large soup pot, reserving the other 2 cups in case you need to add liquid later. Season the pork cubes with salt and pepper, then sear the pork cubes in batches in a cast-iron skillet over high heat, using olive oil as needed to prevent sticking. Be bold, cowgirls: Put a nice golden sear on the pork—it improves both the flavor and the visual appeal! Add the seared pork to the stock in the soup pot. Pulse the cooled tomatillo mixture in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until roughly chopped, then add to the pot. Peel and seed the blistered peppers under cool running water, then dice and add to the pot. Cook’s Note: I like to don a pair of disposable nitrile gloves when working with hot peppers.
Simmer the chili verde over low heat for an hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Add drained hominy; season to taste. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Add stock and adjust seasonings, as needed.
Meanwhile, toast the pepitas in a cast-iron skillet over high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until fragrant but not blackened.
Serve the hot chili verde in bowls, topped with a dollop of crema, a sprinkling of pepitas, slivered radishes, lime zest, and a squeeze of lime.
For the Mexican Crema
Start making your homemade Mexican crema—a deliciously soft and smooth sour cream—the day before; you’ll find that it adds a silky coolness that contrasts beautifully with the heat of the peppers.
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon buttermilk (with active cultures)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
Fill a saucepan about half-full with hot tap water. Pour the cream into a clean glass jar, and set the jar in the saucepan for about 10 minutes. You want to bring the temperature of the cream up to about 90 to 95º F, just enough to take off the chill. (If it goes over 100º F, let it cool before continuing).
Remove the jar from the saucepan, stir the buttermilk into the cream, and cover the jar with cheesecloth. Let the jar sit in a warm spot—such as near the stove or on top of the fridge—for 24 hours. The crema should have a thick but pourable consistency. Stir in the remaining ingredients, put a lid on the jar, and refrigerate until ready to serve.