Why It Works
- Adding all the ingredients to the pressure cooker, with no extra liquid, makes for an intensely flavored stew that cooks in its own juices.
- Pureeing the cooked vegetables and adding fish sauce adds thickness and umami depth to the dish.
Most of the time when the phrase "Believe me" is used, it's shorthand for "I don't really have any evidence to back this up, but I want it to happen anyway, so I'm gonna pretend to be an authority."
But there are those rare occasions when the thing you're trying to describe is so unbelievable that it requires at least a bit of faith if the person you're talking to is going to give it a shot in the first place. What if I told you that you can make a rich, hearty, complex bowl of chile verde with only about 15 minutes of hands-on work? Believe me, you can.
There's a reason that Easy Pressure Cooker Green Chili With Chicken is one of our most popular pressure cooker recipes. It's because the flavor-to-work ratio is simply off the charts. Here's the gist: Dump some ingredients into a pressure cooker. Turn it on and cook. Blend, season, and enjoy. No pre-searing meat, no charring vegetables, and barely any advance prep at all. This pork chile verde uses a similar technique.
The reason it works so well is twofold. First, most pressure cooker recipes call for adding some liquid to the cooker before turning it on. That's because without liquid in there, there's nothing to convert to steam, so pressure can't build. Without liquid, your food ends up scorching instead of cooking. But there's a way around this—as long as you have enough vegetables in there, the liquid that evaporates as they heat up is more than enough to bring the pot to pressure.
The second reason it works is flavor. A stew simmered on the stovetop can be bland if you don't start off with some browning or charring. A bit of the old Maillard reaction, if you know what I mean. The boiling temperature of water at standard pressure is simply not hot enough for any browning to take place. A pressure cooker, on the other hand, reaches temperatures that are high enough to trigger some of that reaction. Yes, you'll only reach around 250°F (121°C) at full pressure, but with a little time, even that temperature is able to produce browning. Comparing identical stews side by side, one made on the stovetop and one made in a pressure cooker, confirms this for you.
It's a trick I first borrowed from my mother-in-law's Colombian chicken stew recipe. Since then, I've adapted it for numerous other dishes. Today, I'm bringing the technique to a classic pork-based chile verde, and it couldn't be simpler.
To begin, combine a few pounds of nicely marbled pork shoulder, cut into large chunks, with some quartered tomatillos, a roughly chopped onion, garlic, and green chiles. After everything is cooked, you purée the sauce, so leaving the meat in big, two-inch chunks makes it easy to grab. Don't worry, the pieces get tender enough that you can shred them with a fork as you eat.
What chiles you use depends on your taste and availability. For my money, there's nothing better than green Hatch chiles in a stew like this. But if you can't get them, a combination of poblano, Anaheim, Cubanelle, jalapeño, and serrano peppers is fine.
I typically use fresh chiles for this, but if you have frozen or jarred roasted Hatch chiles, they'll also work. The tomatillos provide the bulk of the liquid in this recipe, so don't worry about that.
Next, I season everything with a big pinch of salt and toasted, ground cumin.
I dump the ingredients into a pressure cooker, heat it until things start sizzling and steaming, then close the lid. At this stage, you may be thinking, Wait a minute, aren't I breaking two of the basic rules of pressure cooking by overfilling the container and not adding any liquid? Believe me, everything is gonna be all right. Inside that sealed cooker, those tomatillos break down rapidly, releasing their juices to the bottom of the pot and lowering the level of the food at the same time. Once it reaches high pressure, it'll take just half an hour for the pork shoulder to break down to a spoonably tender, juicy texture.
To finish the chile, I remove the pork with tongs, add a handful of cilantro and a dash of fish sauce (to enhance the meatiness of the dish—it won't make anything taste fishy), then blend it all together with a hand blender before stirring the meat back in.
Next...there is no next. It's done. Wasn't that easy?
It really is one of the most mind-blowing weeknight dinner tricks I know. Every time I make this kind of dish, I can't believe how much flavor I get with so little work.
4 pounds (1.9kg) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
3/4 pound tomatillos (about 4 large tomatillos; 350g), quartered, husks discarded
2/3 pound poblano peppers (about 2 peppers; 300g), roughly chopped, seeds and stems discarded (see note)
6 ounces Anaheim or Cubanelle peppers (about 2 peppers; 170g), roughly chopped, seeds and stems discarded (see note)
2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, roughly chopped, stems discarded (see note)
8 ounces white onion (about 1 medium; 225g), roughly chopped
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon (15g) whole cumin seed, toasted and ground (see note)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems (about 1/2 ounce; 15g), plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon (15ml) Asian fish sauce, such as Red Boat
Fresh corn tortillas and lime wedges, for serving
In a pressure cooker, combine pork, tomatillos, poblano peppers, Anaheim peppers, serrano peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, and a big pinch of salt. Heat over high heat until gently sizzling, then seal pressure cooker, bring to high pressure, and cook for 30 minutes. Release pressure.
Using tongs, transfer pork pieces to a bowl and set aside. Add cilantro and fish sauce to remaining contents of pressure cooker. Blend with an immersion blender or in a countertop blender, then season to taste with salt. Return pork to sauce and stir gently to combine. Serve immediately with tortillas and lime wedges.
You can use other fresh green chiles in place of Anaheims, poblanos, and serranos. Using 100% Hatch chiles is a good way to go. You can also replace the fresh chiles with frozen or jarred roasted green chiles, using the same amount by weight.
Toast cumin in a dry skillet and grind with a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle for the most flavor. If there's one thing you can do to improve the flavor of any dish that includes dry spices, it's to use whole spices and grind them with a mortar and pestle. The difference it makes in side-by-side tests is astonishing, and cleaning a mortar and pestle is easier than cleaning an electric spice grinder.