Green Chile: The Soul of the Southwest
By Quincy Jaeger
Being a native New Mexican, fall says one thing to me: green chile. The mouthwatering smell of roasting Hatch Green Chile is inescapable statewide from late August until early November. I can’t recall a single celebration from my youth that did not include some form of green chile. To me, green chile is the very soul of the Southwest. It is what defines our identity and unites our heritage. I can go anywhere in the world and connect with a fellow New Mexican just by saying it’s name. New Mexico cares so much about it’s chile, that it is defined as our state question: Red or Green? It wasn’t until I left the great Southwest that I learned that this incredible food is not widely known outside of the region. I feel it is my culinary duty to spread the gospel.
A few fun facts about green chile:
Hatch, New Mexico grows the finest quality green chile in the world. It is so unique in flavor that Hatch has trademarked it’s name and strain of pepper.
- Ounce for ounce, green chile peppers have more Vitamin C than oranges.
- Eating green chile peppers burns calories by boosting the metabolism.
- Green chile peppers make you feel good in the same way that exercise gives you “a high:”
- It has been well documented that the green chile pepper improves digestion, eases pain, and destroys bacteria. It is an excellent alternative to chicken soup when fighting a cold.
- New Mexico produces more chile than any other state in the U.S.
My best friend swears that true green chile stew cannot be created without the labor and love of a native New Mexican. Since I realize that that excludes many dear readers, I have provided you with a three course meal of my very own green chile recipes, as well as a little bit of my New Mexico love to help you along the way. Enjoy!
Cora Jett’s Classic Green Chile Stew
This recipe is my family’s version of the New Mexico staple. Everyone in my family makes it slightly different, but the ingredients are the same. Cora Jett was my grandmother and an incredible cook. She learned this recipe from her mother, and it goes back in the family to the 1800’s.
2-3 lb pork roast (shoulder or loin)
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
5-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
¼ cup of flour
1 lb Hatch Green Chile, roasted, peeled and chopped
1-2 quarts of water
Cook the pork roast in a slow cooker for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Cool and shred, removing the excess fat.
In a large cast iron pot (I’m partial to Le Crueset) heat the oil and add the pork to brown slightly. Add the flour and toss the pork until it is lightly coated and the flour is tanned.
In a small skillet, brown the chopped onion and garlic, then add to the pork mixture.
Add green chile, tomatoes, and water to the pot with the pork, onion, and garlic. Heat to a boil, stirring frequently so as not to scald. Lower heat to low/medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve in bowls with shredded cheese and tortillas.
Quincy’s Cheesy Chickeny Green Chile Enchiladas
Green chile and cheese are my two absolute favorite foods. I created this recipe to my exact taste, meaning it is very cheesy and VERY spicy. For the faint of heart, you can modify the heat level by using less green chile and adding more sour cream. Salting the sour cream will also bring out the sweetness of the chile and temper the heat. Serving enchiladas with fried eggs and shredded lettuce is a very unique to New Mexico and makes this dish perfect not only for dinner, but breakfast as well.
1 lb. Hatch Green Chiles, roasted, peeled and chopped
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. butter
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken broth, divided
10 small corn tortillas
2 ½ cups shredded cooked chicken (I like to slow cook my chicken in a crockpot the night before for easy shredding)
4 cups coarsely shredded cheddar jack cheese
Preheat oven to 400* degrees.
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add green chile, salt and pepper. Cook chile mixture, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Add one cup of the chicken broth and simmer until reduced by 1/3, or about 10 minutes.
Bring remaining 2 cups of chicken broth to a gentle simmer in a small skillet. Working one at a time, dip tortillas into the broth to lightly soften. Place a thin layer of softened tortillas in a baking dish, followed by a layer of shredded chicken. Next add a layer of the seasoned green chile, followed by a layer of cheese. Place another layer of tortillas on top of the cheese and repeat layers until the baking dish is full, with a top layer of cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and browned on the edges.
Serve with a fried egg and shredded lettuce on top. Finish with a dollop of sour cream.
This recipe makes 5-6 servings and is great to prepare ahead of time and freeze.
Quincy’s Original Green Chile Apple Pie
Green chiles have the slightest sweet flavor that can be enhanced and used in desserts. This is my New Mexican take on the American classic. It is both sweet and spicy and the cheddar cheese on top gives it a special texture and flavor. I used to make this pie with my own homemade crust, which was time consuming and had inconsistent results. I recently discovered the Pilsbury refrigerated version of pie crust dough. It is excellent and saves hours of prep time. One package contains two circles of dough, which is enough for one pie. As a pie purist, I used to shy away from any pre-made crust, but after using the Pilsbury dough and receiving numerous compliments on the flaky buttery texture of my crust, I have decided that it is entirely worth spending less time baking and more time eating. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t!
4 large green apples (I like Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and thinly sliced.
1 cup Hatch Green Chiles, roasted, peeled, and diced
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 package Pilsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust
thin slices of cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Combine apples, green chiles, sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, salt and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix until apples and chiles are completely coated. Press one circle of pie crust into a 9 inch pie pan and pour the apple and chile mixture into the pie crust. Cut the remaining circle of pie crust into 1 inch wide strips and weave on top of the apple mixture to make a basket crust. Press the edges into the bottom circle of crust around the edges of the pie pan and scallop with your thumb. Cut off any excess crust and discard.
Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for 40 more minutes When the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling the pie is done. Place thin slices of cheddar cheese on top of the crust and allow cheese to melt slightly before serving.
Quincy’s Green Chile Gelato
I have something of an obsession with gelato. I actually came up with this recipe in a dream and luckily, it turned out just as delicious as I had dreamed it would! I received an ice cream machine from my mother as a gift and I have had a great time coming up with different flavors of gelato. This one is certainly the most unusual, but it will appeal to spicy-sweet lovers. As the flavor is very strong and unique, I like to dish up small servings. It is excellent with a drizzle of agave nectar on top.
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup white sugar plus one separate tbsp.
1 ½ cups Hatch green chile, roasted, peeled, and diced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan. Place over medium low heat and cook, stirring frequently so that a skin doesn’t form on the top of the liquid. Heat until the mixture reaches a temperature of 170 degrees.
While the milk and cream are heating, whisk the egg yolks in a heat-proof bowl until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is completely incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring the hot milk mixture into the yolks while whisking continuously. Once the milk mixture and yolks are combined, pour the custard into the saucepan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until a thick custard forms. It is thick enough when it coats the back of the wooden spoon. Do not bring to a boil or the eggs will overcook and the texture will be too grainy.
Once the custard has thickened, pour through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature. Stir every 5 to 10 minutes while cooling. Once the custard is completely cooled, refrigerate until very cold, at least 4-6 hours.
While the custard is cooling, combine the remaining tbsp sugar and green chiles in a small saucepan. Heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes or until the sugar has completely melted into the chile and the mixture is slightly sticky. Pour 2/3 of the green chile into a food processor with the lemon juice and puree. Cover and refrigerate the puree until cold, about 1 hour.
Gently whisk the green chile puree into the custard. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the remaining 1/3 green chile about 5 minutes before the churning is complete. Transfer gelato to an airtight, freezer safe container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
*Note: All temperatures in the above recipes are Fahrenheit.