Like most people, I grew up eating food cooked in a slow cooker. Whether it was an easy way to have dinner on the table after a long day of work, or a place to park your queso during a party, slow cookers were a large part of my life in Texas. Yet for some reason I never bought my own. I’m not quite sure why though I think it’s probably a space issue more than anything. My kitchen is small and as it is now, my stand mixer lives on my desk. Whenever I thought about getting a slow cooker I wondered where it would go.
Then a bunch of friends started reading a popular book about tidying up and only keeping objects that bring you joy, and I opened my hall closet and realized it was filled with empty shoe boxes and other silly things that would make room for a slow cooker if I threw them away. So I did.
The next morning, I went to the cookware store and bought my slow cooker. As I was checking out in line the cashier asked me what was the first thing I was going to make and I told her I had no idea. She suggested chili. “It’s perfect this time of year.”
Indeed, a few weeks ago I’d made a chile verde con carne (beef green chili) on the stove, which I’d loved and had been eager to make again. And fortunately at home I had all the ingredients to make this green chili, and so began the process of adapting my stovetop recipe for the slow cooker instead.
First I roasted my green chiles, a mix of Anaheims, poblanos, and jalapeños, then peeled and chopped them. Meanwhile, I browned my meat along with my aromatics. Then, because I was trying out my new slow cooker, instead of cooking everything on the stove in a big pot, I just threw my ingredients into the slow cooker, put on the lid, and walked away, confident that a little over four hours later, I’d have an excellent meal.
As the chili simmered, I decided to read the instruction manual and it suggested adding fresh herbs at then end of cooking for more flavor. I had used up all my cilantro and as I’m one of those who loves it, I realized I would need more. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but a huge storm was supposed to hit New York the following evening and people were panicked. When I walked into the grocery store, the lines to check out circled the perimeter and the shelves were bare. I’d never seen it so crowded, not even before Thanksgiving.
I thought about just walking away but sometimes I’m stubborn and knew that I’d never be happy with the beef green chili unless I made it the way I wanted to make it. So I grabbed a bunch of cilantro (despite the bare shelves there was still plenty of my favorite herb, though this being New York there was no kale) and went to pay. As I was looking for the end of the line, someone grabbed my arm and said, “Are you only getting one thing? You can pay over here.” There was a shorter line in the coffee department and while I still had to wait it in for 30 minutes, it wasn’t so bad. And I had my cilantro.
Well, I shouldn’t have worried as the green beef chili turned out excellent. How could you not enjoy tender beef swimming in a tangy sauce bright with green chiles and tomatillos? A dollop of sour cream, some tortillas chips, and warm flour tortillas make this a satisfying meal. I was very pleased with my first foray into slow-cooker cooking, and look forward to doing it again soon.
Like all new things, there is a learning process for me and I’m still getting used to cooking with it. But no matter, now that I’m no longer one of the only people in America that doesn’t own a slow cooker, I look forward to more experiments. And if they all turn out as good as this beef green chili, then I look forward to sharing them with you!
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Chile verde con carne (beef green chili)
- 1 pound (about 7) Anaheim or Hatch chiles
- 1/2 pound about 3 poblano chiles
- 2 jalapeño chiles
- 3 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease or vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups chicken broth (3 cups if using a slow cooker)
- 1/2 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed and cut in half
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons masa harina
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- Sour cream, for serving
- Cilantro, for serving
- Warm tortillas, for serving
- Tortilla chips, for serving
Roast the Anaheim, poblano, and jalapeños chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. When done, take the chiles out of the bag and gently rub off the skin of each chile. Remove the stems and seeds, and then dice.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the beef with the salt and pepper. Heat the bacon grease or oil on medium-low in a large heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, and then working in batches brown the beef on all sides. This should take about 5-7 minutes per batch. If using a slow cooker, after the beef has browned, remove it from the pot and place in the slow cooker. If using the Dutch oven, place the browned beef into a large mixing bowl.
Once the beef has been browned, leaving the heat on medium-low, add the onions to the pot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
If using the large pot to cook the beef green chili, pour into the pot the chicken broth, and then scrap the bottom of the pot to incorporate all the cooked bits into the broth. Add the chopped chiles, the cooked beef, the tomatillos, half of the chopped cilantro, cumin, oregano, and allspice to the pot.
Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 3 hours or until the beef is fork tender. At this time, add the remaining cilantro and then taste and adjust seasonings. Mix the masa harina with 1/4 cup of water and then stir into the pot until well combined. Continue to cook for 30 more minutes and then add the lime juice. Serve warm with sour cream, cilantro, warm tortillas and/or tortilla chips.
If using a slow cooker, transfer the onions and garlic from the pot into the slow cooker. Leaving on the heat, pour into the Dutch oven the chicken broth, and then scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate all the cooked bits into the broth. Pour the broth into the slow cooker and add the chopped chiles, the tomatillos, half of the chopped cilantro, cumin, oregano, and allspice. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6.
After it’s cooked on high for 4 hours or low for 6, remove the lid from the slow cooker and stir in the remaining cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings. Mix the masa harina with 2 tablespoons of water and then stir into the pot until well combined. Continue to cook 30 more minutes uncovered and then stir in the lime juice. Serve warm with sour cream, cilantro, warm tortillas and/or tortilla chips.