A Chili Detente: Green and white chili

Let me start this by saying I was a very slow convert to salsa; it was too freaking hot! All of it! Having been cursed for nearly half my life with the world’s most heat-sensitive palate, I was incapable of enjoying anything with even the slightest bit of chile. Growing up in California, where burrito shacks are as ubiquitous as McDonalds drive-thrus (if not more), this was a bit of a problem.

Green and white tomatillo salsa

There was a dive near my high school called Jalisco’s, where the carass would congregate from time to time while ditching school. The food they made was everything that was wonderful about Mexican cuisine, at least to my teenage mind; it was sometimes greasy, but always fresh. And, unfortunately, always doused in hot sauce or jalapenos, guaranteeing much sadness for me. It was the disappointment I felt at this queasy relationship with chiles (and the associated inability to partake in a California teenage ritual) that led me to work on broadening my tolerance for our Scovillian friends.

(slowly. very, very slowly.)

As years went by, my tolerance increased, and while I still maintain a healthy wariness of many chiles, I’m a bit more adventurous. My uneasy chile detente has left me more or less free to experiment with salsa and other such associated products–which is fortunate, as it is my conversion to the gospel of salsa that led me down the path to the delightful chili I threw together the other night. It was inspired by my new favorite narcotic, the green tomatillo salsa at Barrio, a restaurant near my house. Though the rest of the food there is delicious, it’s the green salsa that keeps me coming back like slavering beast (okay, and the pressed chicken mole torta, but that’s another story). At once mellow and piquant, it’s a mild salsa with a lot of personality, and from the first bite it seemed to me that it would be an excellent base for a nice, light, white chili.

Unfortunately, I have yet to wrest the recipe out of the lovely folks at Barrio, so that’s meant a certain amount of reverse engineering. I got pretty lucky this time–I hit pretty close to the mark, though I added entirely too much acid to the dish. Next time, I’ll leave out the cider vinegar and stick with just the lime juice. However! That does not mean it wasn’t a lovely treat (both hearty and light, it’s an excellent choice for the changing of the seasons). A few more stabs at it, and I suspect it will get added to my permanent repertoire! And next time? Next time I might even add a little more chile to this chili. How’s that for personal growth?

Green and white tomatillo chili

1.5 lbs fresh tomatillos, husked and halved
1×28-oz can butter beans
1×15-oz can cannellini beans
1×15-oz can white hominy/posole
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lime

  1. Preheat your oven to 375. Place the halved tomatillos on a baking sheet (seed side up) and brush lightly with olive oil. Roast until falling to pieces, about 45 minutes
  2. In a large, deep pot, saute the chopped onions in a little olive oil over medium-low heat, until they’re just translucent (about 4-5 min)
  3. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and parsley. Saute for a few minutes more, until everything is ridiculously aromatic.
  4. Add the beans and hominy.
  5. Add the oregano.
  6. When the tomatillos are falling apart, add those, too.
  7. Add the lime juice and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Simmer on low for at least an hour, or until it’s hit the consistency you desire.
  9. Serve with cheddar cheese, greek yogurt, or your favorite salsa
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