Serve this Mexican-inspired dish over polenta or grits – or toss it with pasta
Hatch green chilies? Bring them on!
They’re in peak season right now, so we can find them fresh (or roasted) at our local markets. But they’re also available in cans at most grocery stores (or frozen from online vendors).
Hatch green chilies are the star of this Mexican-inspired ragù. But no worries if you can’t find them. You can substitute poblano or Anaheim chilies, which also have great flavor.
Good to have choices, isn’t it?
Recipe: Chicken, Green Chile, and Pozole Ragù
This dish is a riff on the classic Mexican soup, pozole (sometimes spelled posole). Pozole soup traditionally is made with pork and green or red chilies. It’s a festive late-fall specialty, often served at Christmas time. Instead of soup, we’re making a rich ragù (stew-like sauce) that we like to serve over polenta. But you can also spoon it over grits or rice, or even toss it with pasta.
“Pozole” is Spanish for hominy, which is dried maize that’s soaked in a solution of lye or slaked lime, and then washed. It’s a major ingredient of pozole soup (not to mention this dish). We’re using the canned form of hominy/pozole because it’s ready to cook and is available in every supermarket. But you can also find hominy/pozole in dried form, which requires soaking before using (follow the package directions).
We use chicken in this dish, but you could substitute pork. And we’re using green chilies – Hatch chilies in this case.
This recipe has three distinct parts: First, you cook and shred the chicken. Second, roast and peel the green chilies (you can do this at the same time you cook the chicken – and if you’re using canned or frozen roasted chilies, this step isn’t necessary). Third, you combine the chicken and chilies with other ingredients to make the ragù.
The ragù itself takes an hour (or a bit longer) to cook. The chicken takes about 1½ hours from start to finish. And the green chile peppers take about an hour to roast, cool, and peel. You may find it easier to prepare the chicken and chilies a day or two ahead. You can also make the ragù a day ahead of time, then reheat right before serving.
This recipe serves about 8 as a main course. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container. They also freeze well.
For the shredded chicken:
- ~2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts
- salt and pepper for seasoning (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon ground pepper; see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil (or lard)
- 1 to 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons dried chile powder (optional; we like to use Hatch medium or ancho)
- ~9 ounces green chilies (about 7 whole chilies; use Hatch green chilies if you can find them; otherwise, poblano or Anaheim green chilies make a good substitute – see Notes)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (or lard)
- ~1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste; about half this amount if using regular table salt)
- ~½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 to 3 jalapeño peppers (depending on how spicy you want the chili to be; optional)
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves
- 7 to 8 ounces green chilies, roasted and diced (see below for preparation; may substitute canned chilies – see Notes)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander powder
- 1 to 2 teaspoons chile powder (or to taste: optional)
- 1 to 2 pounds shredded cooked chicken (see below for preparation)
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 28-ounce can puréed tomatoes
- 2 15-ounce cans hominy (pozole/posole)
- water or chicken stock (for quantity, see Step 9 of ragù preparation below)
- additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed
- for serving, cooked Polenta or Grits
- garnish of chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
- additional garnish of jalapeño pepper slices or shredded Cotija cheese (optional; see Notes for more garnish possibilities)
For the shredded chicken:
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat a Dutch oven or covered casserole on the stovetop over medium heat (use one large enough to hold the chicken – about 4 quarts). When hot, add the oil and let it heat (it’ll shimmer; this takes maybe 15 seconds). Add the chicken pieces and brown them lightly.
- Add a cup of water and the chile powder, if using. Bring the water to a simmer, then cover the cooking pot and set a timer for 1 hour.
- At the hour mark, check the water level, adding more if necessary. Test the chicken to see how tender it is. If it won’t shred easily, cook for another ½ hour or so. (When a paring knife pierces the meat easily, it’s done.)
- Drain the cooked chicken pieces and let them cool. Then, using a pair of forks or two tongs, shred the meat. Set aside. (You can do this step a day or two ahead if you want, and then refrigerate the cooked chicken.)
- Wash the green chilies and spread them out on a broiler pan (preferably one with a wire rack). Place the pan under the broiler and heat until the chile skins begin to blister and turn black. Turn the chilies and repeat until all sides are blistered.
- Place the roasted chilies in a bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Allow them to steam for 15 minutes or so.
- Put on a pair of kitchen gloves (to protect your hands from the chile oils). Using your hands, rub the skin of each chile until it comes off. This usually is quite easy to do, but if necessary you can use a paring knife to help with recalcitrant parts. (You might find the skin slips off a bit easier under running water.) Once you remove the charred skin, you’ll notice that the chile flesh underneath isn’t charred – but it still retains that wonderful smoky flavor.
- Cut off the stem-end of each chile (just below the stem). Slit each chile open lengthwise and (wearing gloves) remove the seeds and cut off the white pith (these parts contain much of the chile “heat” without contributing much flavor).
- Dice the chilies into pieces about ½ inch square, then use them in the ragù preparation below. (You can do this step a day or two ahead if you want, then refrigerate the roasted chilies.)
- Peel and dice the onions.
- Warm a large Dutch oven – one that holds 6 quarts or more – over medium stovetop heat (this is what you’ll be using to cook the ragù).
- When the Dutch oven is warm, add the oil and allow it to heat (it will shimmer when it’s hot). Then add the diced onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion is slightly brown (5 to 8 minutes).
- Meanwhile, wash the jalapeño peppers, if using, and cut them lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop the peppers into very small dice or use a mini food processor (you may want to reserve some slices of pepper for garnish). Place the peppers in a bowl until you’re ready to use them, then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Peel the garlic and mince it finely or slice it thinly (we usually slice garlic because we like larger pieces).
- When the onion is slightly brown, add the sliced garlic and chopped jalapeño. Cook for a minute or two.
- Add the diced roasted chilies, plus the cumin and coriander (and the chile powder, if using). Stir and allow the mixture to cook for a minute or two.
- Add the shredded cooked chicken, stir, and cook for a minute.
- Add the canned tomatoes. Drain and rinse the hominy (pozole), then add it to the mixture. Add enough water or chicken stock to make a thick stew (but aim for something much thinner than soup consistency).
- Bring the ragù to a simmer, then cook for about 45 minutes (or longer – timing is not critical).
- Add more salt and/or pepper, if needed.
- To serve, ladle the ragù over cooked polenta or grits on individual serving plates. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley, if desired. Or use slices of jalapeño pepper. Some shredded Cotija cheese makes a nice finishing touch.
- Need additional garnish ideas? Try sliced radishes. Or chopped onion or scallion.
- Don’t have Cotija cheese (Queso Cotija) on hand? Queso Fresco would also work. Or even Parmesan.
- BTW, when making the polenta or grits, you might want to stir in some Cotija cheese right at the end to add extra flavor.
- If you don’t want to take the time to cook chicken, we suppose you could use a supermarket rotisserie chicken (we’re guessing – we haven’t tried this). If you go this route, shred the meat from the chicken. You’ll need at least 1 pound of shredded chicken for this recipe, but anything up to 2 pounds is ideal.
- Roasted Hatch green chilies are ideal in this dish, but poblano or Anaheim chilies work equally well. You can also use canned or frozen green chilies.
- Hatch chilies come from New Mexico (specifically, from a region around the small town of Hatch). They can vary in intensity from mild to extremely hot, so taste-test before using them.
- Hatch green chilies are flavorful even in their raw state. But they’re generally roasted before using, and the char that develops adds even deeper flavor. You’ll get the best results when you roast the chilies on a grill or over a gas stove flame. But you can also get pretty good flavor using your oven’s broiler, as we do in this recipe.
- As noted above, you can use this ragù as sauce for pasta: Just cook the pasta as you normally would, then drain it and add it to a large bowl. Add the ragù, toss, and serve.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the flakes are larger, so it doesn’t pack a measure as tightly). If using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Down the Hatch
“Yummy stuff,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Love the Hatch chilies.”
“Yup, we’re major pepper consumers,” I said. “We could sustain New Mexico’s economy all by ourselves.”
“That’s because they grow disappearing chilies,” said Mrs K R. “Those little green dudes never seem to hang around here for more than a couple of days.”
The Amazing Vanishing Chilies. And that’s only part of their magic.
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