Foodquest: The Search for the Perfect Green Chili

When I was younger I thought it would be cool to go on a vision quest. (Yes, I was the idiot recreating that scene by running stairs in my apartment building with volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica in a knapsack because where do you find an unused telephone pole in NYC and how to you get it past the doorman?) Now that I am almost 40, a food quest is more my speed. My longest running quest is my search for the perfect green chili recipe. It started the day I tasted the best green chili in the world at La Fiesta. This place has all of the ambiance of the grocery store it once was. Most dishes on the menu come smothered in a cheese that is almost certainly Velveeta. (Which doesn’t actually bother me but I can see how other people might hesitate to pay restaurant prices for something that costs $3 per door stopper-sized block.) But the green chili is out of this world/heavenly/beyond good etc. The consistency is something between a bisque and a broth. There are tiny, succulent chunks of pork and chili. The flavor is just spicy enough to make you want to sip your water after every bite but not so spicy that you want to lie down on the floor with a garden hose down your throat. When you finish, you feel comfortably full and somehow..revived–like you just took a long nap on the couch. It is so delicious that all I can hope for is to come up with something that is called green chili and that is also tasty. I will never actually replicate the dish itself. Still, I’ve had a lot of fun trying. This latest incarnation, which was adapted from this chili-less tomatillo stew recipe, is, according to my friend and fellow chili-lover Michael, my best effort as of yet.

Green chili tomatillo chicken stew

1.5 pounds tomatillos, husked

2 tomatoes

1 onion

2  jalapenos

3 ancho chilis

2 6-inch corn tortillas

5 cloves garlic

About 1. 75 pound boneless, skinless meat of your choice, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used 1 pound chicken thighs, 1/2 pound pork and a little bacon.)

About 4 tablespoons corn meal

32 fluid ounces of chicken broth (Use more or less for a thicker or thinner chili)

13 ounces chopped, frozen hot green chilis

2 table spoons dried oregano

salt and pepper
1 lime

1/2 cup cilantro

Husk tomatillos, rinse and cut in half. Cut tomatoes in half. Cut onion in half. (Leave skin on). Dry grill (without oil) jalapenos, ancho chilis tomatillos, tomatoes, onion and tortillas for about 5 or 6 minutes on a medium hot gas grill or under the broiler until outsides/skins are charred. (If using broiler, line a baking sheet or roasting pan with foil and grill all items on the foil). Place ancho chilis in hot water for 20 minutes. When the 20 minutes are up, place, ancho chilis (minus stems) in processor with everything else you charred, plus the garlic (peeled) and blend until it becomes a liquidy paste.

Coat meat with cornmeal mixed with salt and pepper and pepper. If using bacon, fry bacon, then remove and use grease to brown the other meat. Otherwise, brown meat  with non-stick spray. Remove and set aside.

Add tomatillo paste to the same hot pan. Cook at high temperature, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, meat, and frozen green chilis. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Before serving, squeeze lime over chili and garnish with chopped cilantro.

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