Chile, New Mexico Style
Chile Pod Preparation
When I say 'chile' I'm not talking about the mad conglomeration of beans, meat, onions and peppers that stews in a fire hot sauce. I'm talking about the skinny, green pod-like thing that holds the fire and grows on a bush in the beautiful Rio Grande valley of Southern New Mexico.
Having spent many summers with family on their farms where this delicious treat was grown, I know this chili is the best. It's my favorite anyway.
I come from a line of New Mexico natives who included green and red chile in their daily recipes. We ate it just about every day. I can still smell the delicious aroma of green chile roasting in the kitchen.
Fresh green chiles are long pods with a stem that grow on a bush. They range from light green to a deeper green. The stems are usually thick and the skin of the chile is thick and has a waxy look that shines a bit. The pods should be firm and not soft to the touch. To use them in your recipes you need to roast them to remove the skin.
To roast you poke a hole in the pod with a knife tip and roast them under a broiler, on a grill or on the stove on a cast iron griddle. Keep turning them so the skin browns evenly. The skin will bubble and separate from the flesh of the chile as it darkens. You want this to happen. When the chile is browned all around, remove it from the heat and let it set on a cooling rack or on a towel. When cool rinse and peel the skin off. If you're going to stuff the chile you want to leave the stem on. If you will be chopping it up you will want to remove the stem and especially the seeds. Chile seeds were never a part of Abuelita's recipes as they are difficult to chew and hard on the digestive process. Many people feel that the seeds are what give the chile its heat. There is a fiber that the seeds are attached to that is a very light green color that grows along the inside of the chile, this is what gives the chile its fire. Capsaicin are the alkaloids that make the chile hot and this fiber is where it comes from. If you want to 'cool' the fire of the chile a bit, you might want to remove this fiber. If you like the fire, leave it in...but please remove the seeds.
While you might not be familiar with green chili, I know most everyone is familiar with red chili. It is what is used in enchilada sauce and enchiladas. Red chiles are green chiles that are either left on the bush to dry out, placed on a roof or table to dry, or are strung on a cord and hung from the eaves to dry as a 'ristra'. The green turns red as it dries. The dried chiles are then packaged whole or ground into powder.
To use dried red chiles in your recipes you have to soften them by soaking the pods in warm water. Once they are soft and supple, you will run them through a ricer to press out the juice which is used for the sauce. If you buy the ground red chiles you only need to add liquid to the powder to make the sauce.
There are many varieties of green chile and they come in a wide array of 'hotness' (is that a word?). Most grocery stores in the country usually only carry one kind called 'Anahiem'. If you are going to try your hand at cooking with fresh green chile, you'll probably give this one a try. It is usually not really that hot. If you're lucky you will get a hot one in the bunch which will help the others out.