One of the things that I’ve complained most about whilst being in England is the food. Don’t get me wrong, England has some absolutely amazing food. But anyone who has had New Mexican food will tell you that it’s some of the finest in the world. Guaranteed. It’s an amazingly delicious blend of Mexican, Spanish, European and Native American cuisine. And if you compare it to its far inferior second-cousin, “Tex Mex”, we can no longer be friends.
But the king of all food in New Mexico is the chile. We even have an official state question, “red or green?” It’s an incredibly diverse question and families can be torn asunder by it. It refers to opting for red chile or for Hatch green chile. The green chile is New Mexico’s largest agricultural crop. It’s a really big deal. Every autumn, the air on the streets of Albuquerque is filled with the smell of roasted chiles. Chile roasters set up camp in parking lots and you can come and buy your roasted and skinned chile by the bucket load.
The New Mexico green chile is so hard to describe to people who’ve never experienced it. When people think green chile they think Thai chiles (not similar at all), jalapeños (even less similar), and green bell peppers (not a chance). It’s slightly pungent like an onion, but tastes spicy, smoky and sweet all at the same time. The heat is on the backnote (and they do pack a punch) but it’s mellow at first and then you really start feeling the heat inside and in your throat (as opposed to on the lips and tongue).
Around the holidays, it would almost be odd if you went to someone’s home and they didn’t serve you green chile stew!
- 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1 cup of corn
- 1 can of pinto beans (I can't find them in London, so I use haricot beans)
- 1 pound of potatoes, cut into chunks
- 6 cups of vegetable stock
- 3 cups of roasted, peeled and chopped Hatch green chile
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, heat up your tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Then add the oregano, potatoes, corn, beans, green chile and vegetable stock. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Bring it all to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Serve with flour tortillas as a side, and garnish with coriander if desired.
- This is the kind of dish that actually tastes better the next day or even several hours later, so that the flavours have time to develop. So I'd make it on a Sunday morning and take it off the heat after an hour and leave it covered the whole day (without eating), then put it back on the heat and "re-heat" it for dinner. Delicious!
- You can add shredded chicken, beef or shredded pork to your green chile stew. Pork is especially traditional.
The absolutely amazing, fantastic team at The Hatch Chile Store managed to get 5 packs of frozen Big Jim all the way to me in London and I immediately cried with joy and homesickness. This wasn’t an exaggeration. I’m so grateful to them for giving me a taste of home whilst so far away. (And also amazed that they could manage to get it flash-frozen and vacuum sealed to me no different than they would to someone in California.)
I couldn’t recommend a company any higher. Take a look at their store and maybe you’ll be tempted to try some yourself!
Basically, I’ve just written an ode to green chile and it’s totally deserved! (And it’s more than “hey, I think I saw them eat that food in ‘Breaking Bad’!)