Smoked Pork Chili Verde
After a series of successful chili dishes that were enhanced by utilizing smoked meats, I felt like I was on a roll and should keep the trend going. Those previous creations were all beef-based and revolved around rich, earthy, and spicy Texas-style chili, so for my next shot at the genre, I moved a little west and took influence from New Mexican chili verde, which still delivers a complex character with a good touch of heat, but in a manner that has a brighter and fresher flavor. And, once again, I found the addition of smoke only to be a positive in enhancing the overall flavor.
This chili trend of mine came about because I had a lot of excess smoked brisket on hand and was looking for good uses for it. This recipe diverges from that as it was more purpose built to be a chili from start to finish. The main procedure remained the same—smoke the meat, then braise it—but I was able to think of ways to better cook the meat for the final dish. For the chili verde, I went with the standard pork shoulder that I prepped into large two-inch chunks to allow more surface area for the smoke to embed in.
I also created a rub that was specifically meant to pair with the bright flavors of the green chili sauce, adding touches of sweet sugar, earthy cumin, sharp garlic, and onion that would be at home in the final stew.
To finish the pork prep, I placed all of the cubes in a large bowl and poured in the seasoning, then tossed to coat all the meat evenly. Next, I transferred the pork to a smoker that I had running at 225°F with a large chunk of pecan wood tossed onto the coals. The initial phase of this cook was to embed the pork with a smokiness, and most of that happens in the first hour or two of cooking, so two hours ended up being the total time I decided to go with in this first cook.
A couple hours also provided ample opportunity to put together the chili braise. In the Southwest, you'll mainly find this variety of chili made with Hatch chiles, but I didn't have a source for those, so I went with a trio of green peppers—poblano, Anaheim, and jalapeño. I roasted all of them on the stovetop until they were charred all over, then transferred them to a large bowl, covered, and let them steam until cool enough to handle.
During that down time, I roasted the required tart tomatillos by first removing their husks, washing, and halving them horizontally. I placed all the tomatillos cut side down on a baking sheet and then placed them under the broiler and let them cook until they completely softened and charred on the top. Once done, they got moved into the jar of a blender.
By now, the peppers were cool enough to handle, so I removed the skins, stemmed, and seeded each one and placed them all in the blender with the tomatillos and added in a couple handfuls of fresh cilantro. That all got pureed until smooth to form the green base to this chili recipe.
Next I sautéed a large diced onion in the Dutch oven that I was going to cook the chili in. Once the onions began to brown, I added in garlic, cumin, and oregano and let those cook until their aroma was present. The chili mixture went in next, along with chicken stock, and I brought the entire thing to a boil, then reduce the heat to merely kept the liquid warm until the pork hit the two hour mark in the smoker.
By that time, the cubes of meat had picked up an attractive color, but when squeezed with tongs, they were still quite firm and tough. The braising that was coming next was how they were going to be rendered properly tender, so I transferred all the pieces into the Dutch oven, then set it inside the smoker, positioning the lid to be slightly ajar, and covered the smoker to continue cooking.
My brisket chilis only took about an hour for the meat to warm and start to fall apart, but that was with fully smoked beef, so I assumed this would take longer since the pork was only partially cooked. I started checking around the two hour mark, but the pork didn't start to have that falling apart quality until around three hours in. The sauce was not reducing much though, so instead of leaving the pot in the smoker to finish up, I chose to bring it inside so I could get the liquid to a boil so it would reduce and thicken more quickly.
It took about thirty minutes of boiling for that to happen, and in that time, the tender pork really broke down and started to shred by merely stirring the pot. Not all the meat completely fell apart though, leaving some nice larger chunks for a textural contrast that I personally like in my all-meat chilis.
I added a splash of lime juice for a brightness at the end, and seasoned with salt before digging in. I really enjoyed the brisket chilis I had been making, but chili verde is actually what speaks to me more, so this was my favorite in the line of chili recipes to date. While the rich complexity of red beef chili is certainly comforting, this chili verde delivered that, but in a manner that had a fresher touch with a fruitiness that was more upfront and center. Because its flavor was not quite as heavy, I felt like the smoke had a bit more of presence as well, really separating this chili verde from the standard bearer. My only problem with this chili came when I went to have leftovers—the Fritos I had served on the first run were all gone, and chili just is not the same without them. So my bowl I used for photos went Frito-less, which is a shame, but my toppings of onion, scallion, cilantro, queso fresco, and sour cream still all served the chili verde well and made me a happy eater.
Smoked Pork Chili Verde
- Yield 8-10 servings
- Prep 30 Minutes
- Cook 5 Hours
- Total 5 Hours 30 Minutes
- For the Pork
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 4 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1-2 chunks of medium smoking wood, such as oak or pecan
- For the Chili Sauce
- 4 poblano peppers
- 3 Anaheim peppers
- 2 jalapeño peppers
- 2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed and halved horizontally
- 2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 1/2 cups finely diced white onion (about 1 large)
- 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- To make the pork: In a small bowl, mix together salt, brown sugar, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, and chipotle powder. Place pork cubes in a large bowl, add in seasoning mixture, and toss to thoroughly coat meat in seasoning.
- Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place pork cubes in the smoker or grill, cover, and smoke for 2 hours.
- To make the chili sauce: While the pork is smoking, roast poblanos, Anaheim peppers, and jalapeños over an open flame on a gas stove or grill until skins are completely charred. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand until cooled, about 10 minutes. Peel off charred skins; remove stems and seeds from peppers.
- Meanwhile, preheat broiler to high. Place tomatillos, cut sides down, on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to broiler and cook until tomatillo skins have charred and flesh has softened completely. Transfer tomatillos to the jar of a blender along with roasted peppers and cilantro. Puree until very smooth. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven set over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in chicken stock and chili puree and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low to keep warm while pork finishes smoking. Season with salt to taste.
- Remove durch oven from heat and place pork cubes in chili sauce. Set dutch oven in smoker with lid slightly ajar, cover smoker, and cook until pork is completely tender and falls apart when pierced with a fork, about 3 hours.
- Adjust chili to desired consistency by adding water to thin sauce, or placing dutch oven on stovetop and boiling to reduce sauce. Stir in lime juice. Serve immediately with various toppings such as Fritos, sour cream, diced onion, fresh cilantro, sliced scallions, crumbled queso fresco, and/or lime wedges.
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Kim I served this to guests last night and they proclaimed it was restaurant quality. Definitely worth the prep!
Josh @Kim So happy everyone enjoyed it. I made a fast variation of this in a pressure cooker for a Christmas pot luck this year, and even though it was a hit, it was not a good at this recipe is.