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KotW: New Mexico Food, Part Two July 16, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, New Mexico, restaurants, roasts, soups and stews.
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THE LOCAVORE IN HEAVEN: Green Chile Stew

This is the signature dish of some parts of New Mexico, and has escaped to a few places — not many — in other southwestern states. If the chile grows where you are, you can order this (usually for about five bucks a bowl) at fancy restaurants, less fancy restaurants, coffee shops and even airport lunch counters (note 7). If the chile does not grow where you are… which may be only a few miles of difference… you will ask for green chile stew and the waitress will look at you funny.

But although it’s useless to order this in a restaurant in (say) northern California, you can make it yourself if you acquire the materials. That’s an adventure in itself and not cheap, but it can be done. Personally, I do it, because I think that really good green chile stew is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. (And if the best green chile stew I’ve ever made has never quite equaled what they serve in the little restaurants around where Sara lives — well, that’s the exile’s lament.)

4 quarts chicken stock (note 1)
28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes in juice
2 big yellow onions chopped fine
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 lb. (about a dozen) roasted Barker, Big Jim, Sandia or Socorro green chiles, skinned, topped, seeded and chopped (note 2)
two teaspoons powdered cumin
two teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
salt to taste
3 4-ounce cans Hatch diced green chiles (note 3)
1 cup of 505 (or other) medium green chile sauce
4 to 6 cups of roast chicken meat, mixed light and dark, diced (note 4)
6 stalks of celery trimmed and sliced
6 carrots pared and cut into hunks
2 large white potatoes, peeled and cut into french-fry-like sticks (note 5)
one can El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco (note 6)

Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add the tomatoes and onions, and let simmer twenty minutes. Press in the garlic, add the chopped roasted chiles, cumin, oregano, and salt, and let simmer twenty minutes more. Add the canned chiles, chile sauce, meat, celery and carrots, and cook till the carrots are half-done. Add the potatoes and the El Pato sauce, and continue to cook till the potatoes are sort of not raw. (They’ll keep cooking in the hot broth but you want them to still be a little crunchy.)

Serve with warm flour tortillas, homemade if you can get them.

NOTES

1. The best chicken stock, of course, will be made from the carcasses of a couple of roast chickens, with vegetables and seasoning. If you don’t feel like going that far, use good-grade chicken stock in boxes, but choose organic and low-sodium — you can adjust the salt later on your own and you don’t want too much added in advance.

2. Where the chiles grow, you can get these freshly roasted in August and September, or frozen the rest of the year. If, like me, you don’t live there, you can order them (mostly in fall, winter, and spring, not summer) frozen and airfreighted from places like newmexicanconnection.com or hotchiles.com. They’ll be about $10 a pound.

I recommend you buy medium or medium-hot frozen peppers, and whole, not chopped. The ones that are chopped before freezing lose too much flavor — at least for that price. When you’re ready to use the peppers, thaw them, take the tops off, hold them under cold running water, slip off and discard the skins, split the peppers open and rinse out the seeds, then chop the peppers.

3. Yes, the canned chopped peppers do have to be Hatch — the national brands, like Ortega and La Victoria, don’t taste the same at all. As for the sauce, it can be 505, Garcia, Hatch, Leal’s… just so long as it’s from New Mexico or, at a stretch, West Texas. If you don’t have sauce, use more canned peppers, and vice versa, but it’s best to use both.

4. Chicken is my preference but you can also make this with bite-size pieces of pork shoulder, or even with hamburger, although that’s my least favorite. If you use red meat, brown it before you add it.

5. These are authentic, but optional. If you use them, you might want to put them in what you’re currently serving rather than in the whole pot, so they won’t get cooked twice in the leftovers.

6. This is sold in little yellow eight-ounce cans. One side says “Tomato Sauce” (understatement) and has a picture of a blue-headed duck in an oval frame (“El Pato” means “the duck”). The other side says “Salsa de Chile Fresco” and has a picture of three chili peppers, one red and two yellow. This sauce adds cascabel chiles to the stew, which are very good things. In the Southwest you can buy this in Wal-Mart, in California I’ve even found it in Safeway, and you can also buy it online; it’ll cost fifty cents to a dollar-fifty a can depending on where and how you buy it.

7. Most of the restaurants with good stew are sort of…remote. But on the upper floor of the Albuquerque airport (Sunport), between the elevators and the A gates, there’s a coffee counter called Black Mesa Coffee Company that makes excellent green chile stew. Also pretty good coffee.

(c) July 2008 Kip Crosby

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Comments»

1. sortascruffy - July 21, 2008

two things I noticed yesterday about the El Pato sauce can. One, the motif on the Spanish side is NOT three peppers, it’s a pepper, a tomato, and an onion. Two, the copyright date of the artwork is 1929! — so that’s a product with some staying power, quite appropriately.


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