Hey Everybody! Long time no blog. Yeah, life has a way of taking over when one isn’t blogging. And also, one is kind of lazy. But one – okay me, well I’m back and I’ve brought with me an actual cooking video. As we find ourselves firmly entrenched in fall with winter on the horizon, I give to you the gift of chile verde. It’s a spicy and savory pork and chili stew – I prefer the Spanish spelling when naming the dish, the Anglo spelling when talking about actual chilis. It’s the perfect meal to keep you warm and satisfied on the inside and happy to be alive. Yeah, it’s pretty powerful stuff. Also, it’s bien rico (rather, extremely delicious).
I first encountered chile verde as a wee lad growing up in San Jose, CA when my parents took my sister and I to our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Burro. Now having experienced a lot of good (and terrible – in NYC for sure) Mexican food, I’m not sure El Burro would necessarily hold up as a great Mexican restaurant. But there’s something about that dimly lit cavern of a restaurant – with it’s big leather bucket seats, the pictures of bull fighters and rustic country scenes on the walls and the tortillas chips served with the most watery and bland (in retrospect) salsa – that holds a special place in my heart. I remember my dad would always order the chile verde which consisted of tender cubes of pork served in a sea of really hot (temperature-wise) mildly spicy green sauce. In between mouthfuls of chorizo enchilada (my go to dish at the time) I remember tasting the stewed pork and thinking, “not bad, not bad at all!” Since those formative years, chile verde has become one of my go to dishes both when I order it, say stuffed inside a chimichanga or as a stand alone stew that I love to cook myself. So, what follows is my version of chile verde, a recipe that I’ve kind of developed over the last few years through trial and error and tasting of other versions of chile verde. For example, I used to not use tomatillos but after eating chile verde with tomatillos, I now find them to be a a vital ingredient imparting the necessary acid or tartness that counter balances the spiciness of the chili and the richness of the pork. So without further ado, here’s the recipe:
Ingredients: (as usual amounts are approximate)
1 head of garlic
2 mid sized onions
5-6 poblano chilis
1 1/2 lbs of tomatillos (can use tomatillo salsa)
1 1/2 pounds of potatoes
4 lbs of pork shoulder meat
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Oregano to taste
2-3 tablespoons of vinegar (for marinating the pork)
After the rainy coast and mellow vibe of Goa, Shefali and I made our way to one of the more picturesque and well touristed states of India: Rajasthan. Rajasthan translates to the Land of Kings (or kingdoms) so, every couple days we went to another city (formerly it’s own kingdom) and checked out the old forts and palaces that these Rajput kings built over hundreds of years. I will remember this part of our trip as Rajasthani Fort Tour 2011 (RFT 2011). (Please view scores and scores of fort and palace photos.)
Our first stop was the capital city Jaipur which was decidedly less mellow than Goa. Known as The Pink City, Jaipur could also be known as That Crazy City Where People Hustle You All The Time (especially if you’re a tourist). Don’t get me wrong. I would have hustled me too if I could have seen how clueless and touristy I looked half the time. Once you pass the city walls and enter the Old City, Jaipur is a feast for the eyes, the ears and the nose: women in bright colored saris buy produce of all sorts, cows amble by sharing the road with cars, rickshaws, scooters, bikes and people and vendors sell everything you can imagine from mountains of chilis to sewing machines and salvaged and “refurbished” umbrellas. Though a bit jarring, especially coming after mellow Goa, Jaipur was in retrospect a good entry point into Rajasthan because it’s where we fully embraced our tourist status and took to site seeing like it was a full time job visiting all the major attractions (Juntar Muntar, Amber Palace, Jaigarh Fort, Nahargah Fort, etc) in just two days. From Jaipur, we took a train (an interesting experience in and of itself ) to the desert city of Jaisalmer where we toured the old city fort and went on one of those touristy camel tours which actually ended up being super fun. Then we trained it to the Blue City of Jodhpur which turned out to be my favorite city in Rajasthan because most of the forts and monuments were within easy walking distance – thus no haggling with a rickshaw driver – and I enjoyed navigating the narrow alley ways of the old city. Our final stop on the Rajasthani tour was the picturesque lakeside city of Udaipur, most well known among Westerners – and touted by all the hotels and guest houses in town – because much of the action of one of the best James Bond movies starring Roger Moore was shot there. I’m of course speaking of “Octopussy“.
It’s fair to say that by the end of RFT 2011 tour I had pretty serious case of fort fatigue. I mean they were amazing places to behold, but after the umpteenth viewing of the various Rajputs’ dedazzled private chambers or ornate public meeting hall, I just couldn’t find it in myself too get excited. But fortunately, we had ample food to fuel us on our site seeing adventures. I can’t necessarily put my finger on what Rajasthani food is and how it differs so much from other Indian cuisines. We ate a lot of thali dinners with their combindation of dhal, rice, chapati or naan and veggies. Sometimes we’d seek out nonveg places to get our fix of chicken tikka or lamb saag (spinach). While it didn’t blow me away, there were some stand out meals. I especially enjoyed the all you can eat thali dinners at a very local restaurant called Chandan Shree, in Jaisalmer and which became our go to spot in the desert town. I also enjoyed the spicy lamb and chicken at Kashmiri Spice Dhaba, a dive joint in Jodhpur where I stuffed my face sweating into my food while Shefali got more and more heated (pissed off) by the unwanted oggling of a drunken customer seated behind me. Also, the snack foods (samosas, aloo tikki and other deep fried treats) were really good. Please enjoy the following photos of some of the more memorable meals.
A cyber cafe in Jaipur that serves deep fried snacks!
Fresh produce in the old city of Jaipur
Bags and bags of chilis
This guy has a strong neck.
The ubiquitous street snack, pani puri.
Snack shop in Jaipur
Samosa and aloo tikki stuffed with lentils.
Our first thali dinner at an all veg restaurant called the Four Seasons.
I orderd this massive thali dinner at Chandan Shree in Jaisalmer.
Chandan Shree: our favorite restaurant in Jaisalmer.
Shef poses with our regular waiter at Chandan Shree.
Camel riding in the Thar Desert outside Jaisalmer.
This was where we stopped for lunch.
Amaan, our resourceful camel guide and cook.
Desert linch: spicy vegetables, Maggo noodles and freshly made chapati.
Amaan prepares a dinner.
Laal maans (spicy mutton) and butter chicken at Kalinga restaurant in Jodhpur
Kashmiri Spice Dhaba: total dive but tasty food
Kashmiri spice was no joke. This food was off the hook spice-wise.
Perhaps you want a little lamb wit your chili oil?
I’m feeling the spice!
Deep fried chili pepper: what’s not to love? (my mouth waters as I type).
Shai Samosa: these guys know how to fry!
These samosas were the best we had on our entire trip. So fresh (and hot!) and so good.
And now in contrast to the previous post, we bring you something completely vegetarian AND delicious (yes, such things do exist): palak paneer – aka saag paneer. In English it translates to spinach cheese which doesn’t quite do it justice because it’s such a rich and sumptuous, complex dish that when you’re eating it, you can’t believe that it’s just well, basically spinach with some chunks of tofu textured cheese. And as prepared by my beautiful wife Shefali, you’ll see how easy it is to cook. Click on the picture below for the full recipe and video.