Chile Verde/Rojo

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I may have discovered the cure for the common cold.

The trick is to add about 5 times as many hot peppers to a dish as you are supposed to. It makes eating into a sweaty workout, except that your nose runs instead of your feet. But it has the benefit of clearing sinuses and expunging that blocked bubble feeling in your head, to a point that I felt like I had taken… something stronger.

I find myself looking forward to fall, in part because it provides more of an excuse to do some real cooking. Summer is awesome for all the fresh produce, but most of the time I want to eat it cool, juicy, raw, right off the vine/bush/tree/etc. Not that I didn’t have some fun cooking adventures this summer. And I like fall for other reasons too—the color and smell of turning leaves, the cool air, the warmth of bright orange squash and pumpkins.

This dish has the good fortune to take advantage of both summer ingredients and fall weather. I am sure that it is in no way “authentic”; I combined a couple different recipes, as usual, but essentially threw together a bunch of ingredients, spices, and chiles (honestly I didn’t even know what kinds of chiles I had before dicing them and throwing them in the pot). But for 95% Maine ingredients (everything but the olive oil), I think this Southwest classic worked pretty well.

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I got the idea for chile verde from this recipe in Saveur, and when I got a cold last week I decided I needed it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any tomatillos on hand, which is why the verde turned into rojo. Worked just fine, although I imagine it would also be quite delicious with tomatillos.

Note on portions: this made enough for about 2 1/2 large bowls/servings. Good for just me, but make more if you want to share (recommended—spicy adventures are fun with a companion. But maybe hold back any extra chiles, unless you want whoever you are with to see you with tears and sweat streaming down your face).

Chile Verde
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp coriander
1 onion
3-4 cloves garlic
1 sweet pepper
1 Anaheim pepper
1 serrano chile
1 jalapeño 
 more chiles, proportional to how much you like sweating or how bad your cold is
2 cups tomatillos, or tomatoes, chopped
Maybe 1/3 lb pork shoulder or chops, cubed
2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable), or water
Cilantro, avocado, and lime, for garnish

Prep all the ingredients first: dice the veggies, mince the garlic and chiles. Add the spices to a big saucepan and cook for about a minute, until fragrant, then add the oil, onions, and garlic and sauté for a bit. Throw in the sweet peppers and chiles (don’t stand over it too much after adding the chiles—it might sting your eyes) and sauté until soft. Finally, add the tomatoes and simmer.

Meanwhile, if you have another pan, salt and pepper the pork, then brown it in a little oil. Once browned on all sides, pour in the stock and deglaze the pan (scrape up all the brown bits at the bottom of the pan). If you don’t have another pan, wait until the veggies are soft, take them out and put them on the side, then cook the pork.

Pour some of the stock into the veggies (or just add the veggies back to the pot, and take out the pork as you can), and put in your handy immersion blender to purée some of the tomatoes. Some chunks are okay, but it should be pretty puréed—this is what gives the chile body (alternatively, take some out and put it in a blender if you do not have a hand blender).

Add the pork back in and simmer with the lid on for at least 30 minutes, until pork is tender. If there is too much liquid, take the lid off for a bit.

Scoop into a large bowl, let it cool for a few minutes, then squeeze in a little lime and garnish with cilantro and avocado. Have some bread and napkins on hand, and enjoy.

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Other recipes suggest roasting the Anaheim peppers (and maybe others) before adding them. And obviously using tomatillos. You could also make a roux or a corn roux (corn flour and oil) and mix it in at the end to thicken the chile. And if you are of the total vegetarian disposition, omit the pork and it’ll turn into spicy tomato soup.

Eating this the next day was actually rather more of a pleasure because I could actually taste it, in addition to feeling the effects of the chile (one’s sense of taste is not improved by a cold). I assure you that the flavors are good, even when not overwhelmed by heat.

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