I feel a little bit guilty about cutting back on the number of recipes I’ve been serving up here. So as much as I’ve been LOVING sharing my wellness tips, it feels kind of nice to just curl up with you and this bowl of healthy chicken chile verde and gossip about tomatillos.
Aside from the cornstarch, which I used in place of AP flour as a thickener, this homey Tex-Mex stew is pretty much healthy hedonism in a bowl. And despite ghosts from my West Coast past, it couldn’t be easier to make.
For whatever reason, I’ve always found tomatillos to be a little intimidating. Perhaps it’s because you don’t really see them at the Farmer’s market on the East Coast, and my mental image of someone who really knows how to wield one involves Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are Alright and some semi-erotic de-husking.
The summer after my junior year of college, I lived in LA to try my hand at reading US Weekly and getting studio executives coffee for a living. Since I was a semi-clueless cook with unprecedented ambition, I cut them into thick wedges, lightly sautéed them, and put the al dente Mexitalian concoction on top of crostini. My native Californian friends smiled politely, before leaving my sublet to talk about how I had probably confused the tomatillos with green tomatoes and cleanse their palette with 5 pounds of CPK artichoke dip.
I learned my lesson this time around and decided not to get creative with my tomatillos. Instead, I used them as the basis for this classic chile verde sauce. The preparation is pretty simple: after some Mark Ruffalo-less not-so-erotic de-husking, you roast the tomatillos and jalapenos together until they become charred and soft. Then you puree them with chicken broth. Add a little cornstarch for thickness and you’re good to go.
Chile verde sauce is usually served with pork at So-Cal taco joints. Since I ate my fair share of that in LA with my more adventurous, non-CPK friends I thought I’d make a slightly leaner, lazier version with quick-cooking chicken thighs instead of pork butt. You can add more meat to make it less soupy and more like taco filling. But I love ladling the tangy, green goodness into a bowl and eating it like you would a chili or a stew.
Last week I went up to Westchester to do some writing at the barn. And as I usually do when alone in isolation, I ate an 8am meal that included the dregs of this chicken chile verde, some leftover quinoa, half an avocado, and a fried egg. Breakfast of champions!
I hope all of your wellness experiments and resolutions are going well. This is a great meal if you’re trying to kick sugar (like me!) or just need something healthy, warm and comforting to get excited about eating better.
From one healthy hedonist to another,
Gluten-Free Chicken Chile Verde
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- 1 pound tomatillos husks removed
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 medium cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- ¼ cup corn starch
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- Greek yogurt or sour cream for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Score the tomatillos (i.e. cut a small slit in the bottom of each). Arrange them along with the jalapenos on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven, turning once 15 minutes in, until charred and soft, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make the stew: in a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the chicken with sea salt and sear over high heat until nicely browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate.
Add the onions to the pan and sauté, scraping up any brown bits that formed on the bottom, until translucent, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Cook one minute more. Arrange the chicken in the bottom of the pot.
Remove the skins from the jalapenos and add to the chicken along with the tomatillos.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and ½ cup of stock until dissolved. Add this “slurry” to the pot along with the remaining stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board and shred.
Puree the sauce with an immersion or stand blender until semi-smooth. Return the chicken to the pot and add the cilantro and lime juice. Taste for seasoning.
Serve the chicken chile verde over brown rice or quinoa with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.