Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Soups: Green Chili

The good news about this chili is that none of the measurements are critical. You can add more of your favorite ingredients.  That can also be the bad news if you ever want to recreate the exact chili.


One of the Zalmanek family traditions is to have a chili cook-off during the Christmas holidays.  One year my brother-in-law told me my chili was the best he’d ever tasted.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what variations I made that year.


Since I smoked the pork tenderloin on my Stovetop Smoker using oak smoke chips and added beer to the recipe, it was known as the “Sawdust and Beer” chili.  It tasted better than its nickname indicates.   


This is the recipe for a single batch.  I usually make a double or quadruple batch since it freezes well. 


Serves 6  



2.5 lbs pork tenderloin or loin

¼ tsp fresh ground black peppercorns

¼ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp Mexican oregano

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Olive oil

Wood chips, if you smoke the pork

Flour (wheat, spelt, barley or gluten-free)



2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ red bell pepper, diced

1 sweet potato, diced

2 to 3 fresh jalapenos

2 cans (16 oz) Mexican stewed tomatoes, crushed

2 containers (13 oz each) chopped green chilies, mild or hot depending on your tolerance

2 cans (14.5 oz each) regular strength chicken broth (not low sodium)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp each crushed red pepper and black pepper

fresh cilantro (1/4 to 1/2 bunch)

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup flour

1 beer, optional (I use Fat Tire)

Sea salt to taste


corn or flour tortillas (optional)


Cook the Pork


The pork can be prepared using a grill, oven, stovetop, outdoor smoker, or stovetop smoker.  A stovetop smoker allows you to smoke meats in your kitchen without getting everything all smoky – really.  Check it out at 


No matter how you cook it, trim excess fat and membrane (also called silver skin) from pork, rub the spices and olive oil over the pork and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Choose your cooking method:


·         Grill, oven, outdoor smoker or stovetop smoker – Grill, roast or smoke the meat until it’s almost done.  If you’re using a stovetop smoker, use 2 tablespoons hickory or oak smoke dust. A pink center is okay.  Let it sit while you prepare the chili.  After the chili has been assembled, cut the meat into small bite-sized pieces. Coat them in flour. In a separate pan, sauté in olive oil until done.

·         Stovetop - Cut it into small bite-sized pieces. Coat them in flour.  Sauté in olive oil until done. 


Make the Chili


Heat the oil in a large stock pot.  Sauté onions, garlic, bell pepper, sweet potatoes and jalapenos until onions are soft, but not brown. Add broth, tomatoes and their liquid, chilies, cumin, red and black pepper, and cilantro.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 1 hour.


Blend water with flour and stir slowly into mixture.  Cook, stirring over high heat until mixture thickens.  Add pork and beer.  Adding the pork at the end keeps it from getting dried out. Add salt to taste.




Use whole cumin seeds.  Toast them in an ungreased skillet to help release their essential oils. 


Use hominy or new potatoes instead of sweet potatoes.