|Green chile stew with pork and potatoes. © Ryan Schierling|
There is no question as to the permanence of Texas red chili being the Lone Star State's one and only. It was declared to be the state dish of Texas in 1977 by House Concurrent Resolution No. 18, with President Lyndon Johnson brazenly declaring that "chili concocted outside of Texas is a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing."
I wouldn't go so far as to call chili in New Mexico weak or apologetic, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it chili, either. It's chile stew.
Technically, there is no state dish of New Mexico. They do have an official state question which is directly related, and that is "Red or green?" If you can't decide, you just say "Christmas," and whatever plate you've ordered will get smothered in a little bit of both red and green chile sauce.
The green version of this stew is my favorite, and it's fairly easy to make. My recipe is not "authentic," as I use poblano and jalapeño peppers in addition to the Hatch green chiles, but like I said, I'm not from New Mexico. This is my Old Mexico recipe for New Mexico green chile stew – by way of Washington state, Virginia, Colorado and Kansas – which is a little closer to a caldillo.
It is as far away from the Midwestern red chili of my youth as can be, which was a thickly-tomato sauce-based, ground beef and kidney bean-filled bowl, heavily-spiced with ground chili powder and cumin. This green chile stew is thinner, tangier and focuses the flavors of the roasted chiles themselves. The tender pork adds a hearty sweetness and complimentary texture to the stew. It is a fantastic winter meal.
FGHD editor's aside/note/distraction: I spent my formative years in Kansas, and just so you know, there's no official state dish of Kansas either, but The Kansas Historical Society has a recipe for Mr. White's Famous Tossed Lettuce Salad, which legendary, storied newspaperman William Allen White – who was born and died in my hometown of Emporia – apparently prepared at the table "in a rite he stood up to perform." Now, no matter how much pomp and circumstance you're bringing, the tossing of a head of lettuce, a bowl of minced onion, vinegar, oil, salt and curry powder seems a bit unlikely for a state dish contender. State Dish of Kansas – Tossed Salad? No. I will defer to Joe from Oklahoma, and his pork ribs and fries on the Kansas state line side of Kansas City. Now, that's a state dish.
Green chile stew with pork and potatoes
3 pounds pork (I used a combination of center loin roast and chop), cut to 1 inch cubes*
1 pound poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and chopped
1 pound Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled and chopped**
8 ounces tomatillos, paper husks removed, roasted
1 white onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 small white potatoes, peeled, cut to 1 inch cubes
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
1 14-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
4 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
4+ cups water
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons piloncillo or agave nectar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt, to taste
cilantro, for garnish
Roast the poblano, green chiles and tomatillos under the oven broiler until the peppers are charred and the tomatillos are beginning to soften. Put the blackened chiles in a paper bag or closed container to steam for 10 minutes (we use an empty tortilla chip bag and a chip clip to seal it off). Peel the charred skin off, remove stems and seeds, and chop. It's okay if there are black bits left behind on the flesh of the chile.
In a large stockpot, heat two tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Cook pork until evenly-browned, about five minutes. Remove from stock pot and set aside. Turn down heat to medium, add onion and garlic to stockpot and sauté for five minutes, until just soft. Add chiles, tomatillos, jalapeños and chicken stock. Use an immersion blender to purée everything until there are no large chunks left. Add pork, potatoes, tomatoes, cumin and Mexican oregano. Add a couple good pinches of kosher salt and the water until there's enough liquid that everything is submerged. Bring to a boil, then let simmer over low heat until the pork is tender, about 2 hours. If necessary, add a bit more water or stock as the stew cooks down. Add piloncillo or agave, lime juice and salt to taste.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm flour tortillas.
This stew keeps well, and will thicken up overnight in the refrigerator. It tastes even better the next day.
*You can omit the pork for a vegetarian version of this stew. I have made it both ways, only adding a few more potatoes for the sin carne option.
**If fresh Hatch chiles are out of season, do not substitute Anaheim. Second best option is in your grocer's freezer case – Bueno packages flame-roasted, peeled and diced green chile in 13-ounce tubs. Your third best option is tinned Hatch green chiles. Option four is try a different recipe.