Why We Love Green Chile

Gourmet Girl - August 4, 2015

Here are a two unique and wonderful recipes—not your typical green chile fare. . .read more. . .

In August and September when that deliciously distinct aroma of roasting green chile fills the air, emanating from roadside stands all across the city, you know it's time to savor New Mexico's most beloved food.

Photo: Courtesy El Pinto

The season is well underway now in Santa Fe, as restaurants from the Plaza to the Southside and points beyond offer creative dishes that feature our famous green chile in sauces and stews, as well as enchiladas and burritos, cornbread and tamales, green chile mac'n'cheese, the celebrated green chile cheeseburger, and even atop pizza. And if you're like most New Mexicans, you're already making your own green chile fare at home, including my personal favorite—green chile apple pie.

New Mexico's chile craze has spread way beyond the boundaries of our state. Last year, it was possible to buy roasted Hatch green chile at more than 40 venues across southern California—from Santa Barbara to San Diego and all points in between. This fall, if you happen to be in Flemington, N.J., you can buy our agricultural treasure at the local ShopRite, which hosts its first ever “Hatch Chili Pepper Roasting Festival.” And other states are making sure their residents have a chance to buy freshly roasted green chile from New Mexico, too

Why is New Mexico's green chile so revered? It goes well beyond the sweetness of the flavor and the intensity of the heat. It has something to do with the growing conditions in the Hatch Valley of southern New Mexico, where the green chile pepper was cultivated at New Mexico State University. Arguably the chile capital of the world, Hatch provides the perfect chile storm, a combination of hot days, cool nights and high elevation—coupled with fertile volcanic soil – creating the ultimate chile-growing conditions. This chile has become so popular that it's now imperative to check the labels of chile that you purchase to make sure it reads “Hatch,” because so many vendors are misrepresenting the chile they sell from Mexico and Texas as the real deal.

Apart from its unique taste, green chile is also incredibly good for you. Low in fat and calories, a single green chile contains as much vitamin C as six oranges and helps boost your cardiovascular and immune systems. The capsaicin, which is stored in the veins and seeds, not only provides the heat, but also helps dissolve blood clots and improves digestion. Capsaicin increases metabolism, burning calories and reducing your appetite as well as boosting your mood by releasing endorphins. And it can improve your circulation by lowering your blood pressure and helping to control your heart rate. Capsaicin also can relieve arthritis and sore muscles.

The fruit pod of the nightshade family, related to eggplant, tomatoes and tobacco, chile is native to Central America, where it was a spicy ingredient used in Mexican cuisine for several thousand years. Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the fruit to Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries and Pueblo Indians used it as an herbal medicine, a wound disinfectant and a food preservative.

Here are a two unique and wonderful recipes—not your typical green chile fare but delicious nonetheless—provided by the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery's  Executive Chef ef David Sundberg, who is passionate about using locally grown, seasonal foods and James Beard award-winning Chef Mark Kiffin of The Compound.

The Blue Corn Cafe's Chicken Fried Chicken with Green Chile Country Gravy (Serves 4)
 “I love green chile because it has soul,” says Chef Sundberg. “I enjoy tasting the subtle background flavors of apples and green onions and grass that differs from regions and even fields and harvest times.  Oh —and don't forget the heat —love that heat!
 
Chicken-Fried Chicken

4 skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
Cooking oil
4 cups flour,
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon mustard powder

Pound chicken breasts to 3/4-inch thickness. Combine eggs, buttermilk, salt and pepper and marinate chicken in mixture for at least 4 hours.

When ready to cook, combine flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, paprika and mustard powder in wide-rimmed bowl.
Heat 1/2-inch of cooking oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium high.

Drain off excess marinade and coat each breast in flour mixture. Fry the chicken two pieces at a time (so as to not crowd the pan) until crisp and golden, about 5-7 minutes per side.  Finish cooking (if needed) in a 350-degrees oven until they reach a temperature of 165 degrees.

Gravy
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 to 1 cup of chopped, roasted green chile (to your liking)
4 tablespoons flour

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan, coo onion in butter or olive oil over medium heat until translucent and tender. Add heavy cream, salt, green chile and 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes then stir in flour and 1/2 cup water and return to a simmer to thicken.

This dish is best served with mashed potatoes or noodles, although it's also amazing over fresh biscuits with a fried egg for a really decadent breakfast.

Mark Kiffin's Individual Green Chile Muffin Quiche (Serves 6)
6 Thomas English Muffins
6 whole eggs
¼ cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fire roasted green chile (if frozen-thaw and drain off any liquid)
2 scallions finally chopped
1 cup grated cheese-Jalapeno Jack, Cheddar, plain Jack, smoked Gouda
6 strips bacon, cooked, drained and chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Shape 6 English muffin halves to fit inside the muffin tins. Large tins don’t require cutting but some of the smaller ones do. Sread each muffin half with butter and toast, crispy is better. Sprinkle the chile, scallions, cheese and bacon in each muffin cup on top of the pre-toasted English muffin.

Whisk the eggs and the ½ & ½, season with salt and pepper and pour slowely over the filled cups. Depending on the size of the cups you may have 6 or 8 cups.

Bake for 30 minuets and test for doneness. They should be firm, not dry, but not runny. And browned on top. Remove and serve warm, with fresh OJ, a spicy Bloody Mary or just a morning smile.