I’d always been opposed to the idea of owning a crock pot. Our apartment is so tiny and it doesn’t seem possible to nestle another thing in between our kitchen aid mixer, vitamix, coffee maker, soda stream, food processor … so many gadgets … that I use surprisingly regularly. A crock pot also felt like giving up. Surrendering my culinary creativity to mushy foods that all taste and look the same. Not to mention the myriad of crock pot recipes that call for condensed soups, seasoning packets and all of those industrial food products that I just can’t get behind.
And then, around Thanksgiving, I was visiting my mom. We ran errands all day, hopping in and out of the car, driving from place to place, and got home around six in the evening. And her house, her house smelled amazing. The kind of smell that really makes you feel taken care of and instantly banishes the “what the hell are we having for dinner tonight” worry. Unbeknownst to me, my mom had thrown leeks, potatoes and vegetable stock into her crockpot before we’d left to take on the days errands, and now all that was left to do was to puree the soup and make a salad. This was when I realized that I could indulge the convenience of the crock pot without giving up good food.
Fast forward to Christmas, and my grandparents gifted us a crock pot. Since then I’ve been experimenting with a few new recipes, including my mom’s leek and potato soup. Most of these recipes could also be braised in a dutch oven or made on the stovetop, but I must again admit it is insanely nice to come home to a meal that is nearly ready to eat.
This chili verde is a mashup of several different recipes from around the Internet. It’s hard to go wrong when you combine tomatillos, chilis and pork. They’re made for each other. This version is not particularly spicy and makes enough for at least eight meals. Not surprisingly, it freezes well and you can easily reheat it in your crock pot and enjoy another round of chili verde at a later date. I’m starting to see why people like these things.
But, I still resist the microwave. It is my last stand.
1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, taken out of their husks
1 onion, cut into eighths
6 cloves of garlic
4 serrano chilis, stemmed and de-seeded (Keep in mind that the heat of serranos is quite variable, it’s good to taste them to see how spicy they are before you increase the amount of chili you use)
3 lbs pork shoulder, peeled and cut into 1.5″ cubes
4 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
1 orange, juiced (or 1/4 cup orange juice)
4 cups of chicken stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil/bacon fat/lard
fresh cilantro, sour cream, avocado, cabbage, lime, tortillas and hot sauce/salsa for serving
Cut your pork into one and half to two inch cubes. Season it with salt. Heat a tablespoon of oil/bacon fat/lard in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. In batches, brown the pork on all sides. Put your first batch aside and brown the next few pieces. Continue until you’ve browned all of your pork. It will probably take somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 minutes to brown this much pork, but it adds a ton of flavor into the final dish.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and serrano chilis into a single layer. Turn your broiler to high and char the vegetables. You’re looking for a deep dark spots on all of the vegetables and for the tomatillos to look deflated. Pour your charred vegetables and all of their juice into your crock pot vessel, or into a dutch oven.
After you’ve browned all the pork, deglaze with some orange juice, chicken stock or water. Be sure to scrape up all the delicious browned bits and add those into your crock pot, along with all of the pork.
Add the potatoes, chicken stock, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, a little salt and pepper, and cover. (FYI – If this is too much to do before work, you can prep the recipe up until this point and refrigerate the entire dish, and then start the cooking in the morning). Set your crockpot to high and cook for 6 hours, or low and cook for 8 to 10 hours. If you’re cooking in a dutch oven in the oven, preheat your oven to 300° F and cook for about 4 hours. The pork should be super tender by the end of the cooking time, and the vegetables will have become a soupy sauce.
Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper as needed. It may need salt, especially if your broth was unseasoned. I serve chili verde in a soup bowl with tortillas, cilantro, sour cream, avocado, salsa and cabbage on the side. This way folks can make their own mini tacos with whichever fixings they like best, and you get to drink up that delicious tomatillo broth at the end of the meal.
Ps. Do you have a crock pot or crock pot-adaptable recipe that you love? Please send it my way! We’ll soon tire of the three dishes I’ve added into the meal rotation and I’ll need new ones to try. Gracias!