The Pressure Cooker Makes Rich Chicken Chile Verde in Under 30 Minutes

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

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Quick and easy chicken chile verde. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

It's a tough call, but I'm almost inclined to say that I like green chili made with tomatillos and a mix of fresh green peppers even more than I like a bowl of Texas red. This version is packed with moist, tender chunks of braised chicken thighs in a balanced sauce that is rich with umami depth and green chili flavor, but still plenty bright and fresh. And the best part: You can make it in under half an hour. All it takes is a pressure cooker and some dumping skills.

To say I've been on a bit of a pressure cooker kick recently would be an understatement. I'm like a guy who just got a new power saw and can't think of enough things to cut with it. In fact, I just added a new power saw to my online shopping cart in the hopes that it'll help wean me off the pressure cooker for at least a few days.

Why the excitement? It mostly has to do with a series of recipes I've been working on inspired by my wife's 30-minute, 5-ingredient chicken and potato stew. It's a brilliant recipe. All you do is add chicken, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and a few aromatics to a pressure cooker—without any liquid—then cook it over high pressure for about 20 minutes.

As the chicken and vegetables heat, they release a ton of liquid and end up braising in their own juices. The result is ultra-tender chicken with an intensely flavorful sauce and vegetables to go with it. In terms of flavor-to-effort ratio, I can't think of a better technique, and the best thing about it is it works with a wide variety of ingredients and vegetables. Last week I used tomatoes, dried chilies, and cumin to make the World's Fastest, Easiest Chicken Enchiladas.

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This week we're making chili. Green chili, to be exact. Just like my more traditional pork-based green chili, the main flavorings here are poblano, jalapeño, and Anaheim peppers (if you can get Hatch chilies, lucky you. Use 'em!), tomatillos, garlic, onion, and cumin.

The process, on the other hand, is way, way simpler. Here's the first step: Dump everything into your pressure cooker.

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Here's the second step: Turn the pressure cooker on. Don't worry, the hard part is over.

When you open up that pressure cooker, you should see a bubbling pot of richly flavored broth with a nice slick of chicken fat floating on the top and very, very soft vegetables. All that's left to do is remove that chicken and set it aside until it's easy to shred (if you want to make this even easier, go ahead and use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You'll lose a bit of flavor, but the dish becomes nearly effortless).

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Once the chicken is out, purée the broth and vegetables with a hand blender or a countertop blender until smooth, adding a handful of cilantro leaves and a big dash of fish sauce in the process. The former adds freshness to what has become a very richly flavored sauce in the pressure cooker while the latter adds more umami depth. Don't worry, your sauce will not taste like fish. I promise you.

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Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it up into bite-size pieces with your fingers or some forks, then stir it back into the sauce.

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A little extra fish sauce is always welcome in my book.

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Just like with those enchiladas and the Colombian chicken stew, I wondered if flavor could be improved with a few minor extra steps like sautéing the aromatics before adding the pressure, but surprisingly, the difference is extremely minimal. The high heat of a pressure cooker does a pretty great job of creating complex flavors while the vapor-tight seal means that everything that comes out of those vegetables and chicken stays in the pot, exactly where you want it.

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I serve up the chile verde with some warm corn tortillas, limes, and whole cilantro sprigs artfully and meticulously arranged on my table to look like they accidentally just fell there. I do this because it makes the photos look better and when I have better looking photos, I get more folks to share and read my stories. This in turn leads to more people cooking great recipes at home, which in turn makes the world a better place.

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That's right, you stray garnish police! We're making the world a better place, one haphazardly strewn cilantro sprig at a time.