Chili verde is a dish native to Northern Mexico. It is a form of stew, traditionally prepared with pork shoulder, although other cuts of pork and sometimes even chicken may be used. There are a number of variations on the basic recipe, and purists will usually argue that their version is “authentic.” In fact, like many ethnic dishes, chili verde is prepared in a variety of ways in its native country, so it is safe to say that whichever version a person likes the best is probably authentic enough.
The base of this stew is slow-cooked meat, which is simmered in broth and a mixture of other ingredients until the meat is essentially falling apart. Some people eat it on its own, sometimes with tortilla chips or tortillas to absorb the liquid. This dish can also be wrapped in burritos or tacos, although this practice is more common in Mexican restaurants in the United States. As the “verde,” which means “green,” would suggest, the broth used to make the dish is green.
At a minimum, the chili verde broth includes crushed green chilies, often a mixture of varieties for added flavor, along with garlic, pepper, salt, and onions. Some cooks also add oregano and cilantro, often ground into a paste so that the flavor is distributed evenly in the sauce. The heat can be adjusted by playing with the varieties of chilies used and the number included in the dish, and cooks can also reduce the heat by de-seeding the chilies first.
In Northern Mexico and the American Southwest, many people also add tomatillos to their chili verde, sometimes roasting the fruit first to create a deeper, more complex flavor. Other cooks add tomatoes, and some cooks in Central and Southern Mexico like to throw potato chunks in as well. In any case, lime juice is frequently squeezed over the stew just before serving to create a tangy flavor.
Some markets, especially those which carry Mexican ingredients, carry chili verde mixtures in a can, allowing cooks to blend the mixture with a little broth and use it as-is. The dish is not terribly difficult to make from scratch, however, and using fresh basic ingredients can allow cooks to play with flavors and spice levels. If tomatillos, an ingredient that some people think are critical, are not available, cooks may be able to find them canned; they can also use tomatoes instead, with a hint of sugar to cut the acid.