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One of my presents from this past Christmas was a Macy’s gift card (thanks, John and Pam!). Although I had every intention of going into the store and buying some much-needed new jeans, I “accidentally” strolled into the kitchen section. There, sitting on a shelf with a big “50% off” tag on it, was a shiny red enameled cast-iron pot! No, it wasn’t a Le Creuset. It was a “Martha Stewart Collection” but when one is a grad student, one cannot be too picky.

So it was that we came home with Nathan lugging “Martha” up the stairs. A few days later, Martha ventured out of her box and onto our stove, where she helped us prepare a deliciously huge pot of chile verde. We even bought masa and made fresh corn tortillas to celebrate her maiden voyage. *Sniff* She made us so proud.

And honestly, who needs jeans when one has chile verde??

1.5 lb fresh tomatillos
4 lb pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat, cut into 2-in cubes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
all-purpose flour, for dusting
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 yellow onions, cut into 1-in pieces
4 fresh anaheim or poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-in pieces (you can replace 2 of the anaheims with 2 green bell peppers too, if you want)
2-3 fresh jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp dried Mexican oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed and soaked in water for 15 min, then drained
2 bay leaves
1/4 coarsely chopped cilantro
4 cups chicken stock or water

Preheat a broiler. Husk the tomatillos, then put them under the broiler in a shallow baking dish. You want to char the skins, so check on them every so often and turn them when the tops become charred. Cool, then core and chop roughly.

Season pork with salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Heat oil in an enameled cast-iron pot over medium-high heat. (Alternatively, you can do the frying steps in a heavy skillet then transfer everything to a large soup pot too.)

Add just enough pork to the pot so that pieces are fairly well-separated. Note that it’s very important not to over-crowd the pan or the pork will get steamed rather than browned. Once a batch of pork is browned, remove from pot and set aside. Continue with the rest of the pork, adding a little more oil to the pan as necessary. The bottom of your pot will start to develop a little crusty brown layer, which is great – that’s what you want!

Once all the pork has been seared, add onions to the same pot and cook until soft, about 5 min. You also want to coat the onions with the browned, crusty bits in the pan — I found that adding a bit (~1/4 cup) of stock to the pot at this point helps with loosening the browned bits from the bottom.

Add in chiles and bell peppers (if using) and cook for another 3-4 min until fragrant. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so, but don’t let the garlic burn.

Add in all the rest of the ingredients: spices, tomatillos, cilantro, chicken stock, reserved pork. Take the heat down to medium-low, cover, and allow the whole thing to come to a gentle simmer. (Obviously, it’ll get there faster over high heat, but the idea is you want to avoid boiling the stew if at all possible, since boiling results in really tough pieces of meat. So if you want to turn the heat up in the beginning and promise you’ll turn it down before it comes to a boil, then I will allow it.

At this point, you want to keep the stew at a really gentle simmer for 2-3 hours, uncovered so it has a chance to thicken slightly. You can either keep the pot on the stove (at very low heat) or transfer the whole pot to a 250F oven. Whatever method you use, just check on the stew every so often and adjust the heat as needed to make sure it’s not bubbling/boiling away too furiously.

Season the stew with salt and pepper. Serve with freshly chopped cilantro, queso fresco, and warm corn tortillas.

(Makes a lot of chile verde, enough for multiple meals. This should freeze pretty well.)

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