Pork verde, named for the fragrant green sauce that defines the dish, is a bridge between summer and autumn cooking. The ingredients say summer: shiny, crisp chiles in a variety of shapes and sizes, fresh tomatillos, abundant cilantro. The cooking method says fall, an all-afternoon slow bubble on the stove. The final product is so good you will want to eat it any day of the year.
The taro, though not traditional, is my favorite part of this dish. Simmered in the piquant verde sauce, it becomes tender and creamy but holds its shape. I found myself picking out a few extra chunks to put in my bowl. Speaking of tender, I haven’t had pork like this in years. The acidity of the tomatillos is partially responsible; the slow, lazy cook also helps. My husband used leftover pork to make sandwiches for several days and is already asking me to make this dish again. Despite the quantity of chiles in the recipe, I would not consider this an overly spicy dish. The heat is balanced by the sweet onion, starchy taro, tart tomatillos and herbaceous cilantro. I listed my preferred blend of mild to medium varieties, but you can adapt the mix to your own taste. When Hatch chiles are available, they’re my first choice; any combination of available chiles will work. You can substitute a green bell pepper for the poblano if you want and jalapenos, Anaheims or serranos for the others. We used leftover sauce on rice with some quickly sauteed seasonal vegetables– corn, zucchini and summer squash– and it was as satisfying as the bowls with pork and taro. The versatility of pork verde is wonderful: in the course of a week we ate it as a stew, with polenta, in sandwiches, as saucy tacos (with corn tortillas and avocado) and with rice.
With very little preparation time, pork verde is a fairly simple meal that tastes as good for Wednesday lunch as it did for Sunday supper. I know that this will become a staple dish in our house and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.
Pork Verde with Taro
- 1 T. canola oil
- 3 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast, fat trimmed, cut into 1-2″ chunks
- kosher salt & black pepper
- 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and diced
- 1 T. cumin seeds
- 3 c. chicken broth
- 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and roughly cut into pieces
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly cut into pieces
- 4 Hatch chiles, roughly cut into pieces
- 1 c. cilantro leaves and stems, packed
- 3 green onions, roughly chopped
- 1 lb. taro, parboiled, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces*
- polenta, rice or tortillas to serve (optional)
- sour cream to serve (optional)
Begin by searing the pork: in a large Dutch oven or similar heavy and large stew pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the pork liberally with salt and pepper and sear in your hot pan until you have good brown color on at least two sides, which takes about 5-7 mins. Work in batches to prevent overcrowding the pan, which could cause the meat to steam instead of browning.
While the pork sears, begin the verde sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the tomatillos, garlic, half of the chopped chiles, cilantro, green onions and 2 c. chicken stock. Blend until smooth and set aside.
When the pork is all browned, add the onion to the pan and cook over medium heat for 7-10 mins., until translucent. Add the cumin to the pan and cook for another minute or two. Add the remaining half of your chiles and stir, then return the browned pork to the pot and stir again. Add the remaining 1 c. chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to gently get all the good brown bits off the bottom of the pot, then stir in 2 c. of your verde sauce. Bring to a gentle boil, then cover the pot and lower the heat to a low medium. Simmer the pork verde for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
At this point, you can pause the cooking process, cool the pork slightly and transfer to the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
To prepare the taro, bring 4 c. salted water to a boil and gently drop in the whole taro roots. Cook for 3 mins. and drain. When the taro is cool enough to handle, remove the fibrous peel and cut into 1″ chunks. Don’t skip the parboiling step! Taro contains oxalic acid, which is neutralized by cooking but can irritate your skin if you try to handle it raw. Taro should never be eaten raw.
Add the taro chunks and remaining verde sauce to the pot and cook for another 35 mins., until the taro is fork tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if necessary. Serve immediately, over polenta or rice or with tortillas, garnished with sour cream and additional cilantro, if desired. Leftover pork verde will keep in the refrigerator for at least five days.
*There are many types of taro. I prefer and usually buy the small round variety, sometimes called eddoe. If you have trouble finding taro, substitute an equal amount of potato or parsnip and omit the parboiling step.