in late August, i made my biweekly run to the closest organic grocery store. as i emerged from the car, an aroma from my too-distant past wafted through the air. unmistakable. unforgettable. totally unbelievable. the fragrance of roasting green chiles. i looked around to get my bearings. i was still in the state of Washington, right? yeah, i definitely wasn’t lost. but i was immediately transported to a long-ago summer road trip to New Mexico.
a quest for Hatch green chiles—and some much-needed time off—prompted my partner and i to plan the getaway when the crop was in season. in my cherished VW Eurovan MV (i’ve had a lifelong love affair with VWs, but this one spent more time in the shop than any VW mechanic), we hopped on I-25 and traveled south from Colorado to Taos, then on to Santa Fe. we passed by miles of scruffy brush and stretches of pinon pines—all covered by bright blue, cloudless sky.
rotating between sleeping in the bus with the top popped and treating ourselves to a B&B, we’d frequent some of our favorite comfort-food eateries: Zia Diner for the hot roast turkey plate with cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce. or meatloaf with green chiles and toasted pine nuts, followed by a slice of homemade pie. 66 Diner for green chile cheeseburgers and banana shakes.
our schedules didn’t allow us to travel all the way to Hatch to pick up our Big Jims, a green chile that delivers a delightful medium heat. locals directed us down to south Albuquerque, where we picked up two bushels of freshly roasted green chiles and loaded them into the back of the bus. in the same split second, we stopped and looked at each other: how would we keep the chiles from spoiling before we got home?
clearly, it would take some time for the chiles to cool from the roasting process. so, just before we went bed, we purchased the biggest bags of ice we could find, wrapped them in towels and tucked the chiles in tightly next to them. the chilled chiles made it through the night (whew), and we happily returned to Colorado with our prize. one of the best parts? the chile scent lingered in the van for weeks. sigh.
while some people clean chiles before freezing, i don’t. experience has taught that scraping chiles is one of those laborious tasks i prefer to deal with one small bag at a time. the Big Jims were separated into portions, popped into freezer bags and tossed in our extra freezer, so i could spend the next year making dainty batches of green chile at whim. over the years, we took quite a few jaunts to New Mexico. and though i’ll always be a northern girl, i left a piece of my heart south of Raton Pass.
startled back into reality by grocery store traffic, i went directly to the area where boxes marked Hatch green chiles were piled high. the roasters took my order for half a bushel, which i merrily picked up after my shopping.
here, i’ve shared my basic recipe: spicy and rich. it can be varied by using different kinds of tomatoes (my friend David likes romas, blanched and peeled), or adding ingredients like finely chopped garlic and tomatillos. whatever your approach, it’s hard to go wrong with a batch of Hatch green chiles. if you can’t find Hatch chiles, you can substitute Anaheims—but, in my humble opinion, it won’t be quite as sublime.
scout’s Green Chile
3/4 pound pork shoulder blade steak (or small pork butt roast)
2 – 3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
12 Hatch Big Jim green chiles, roasted, peeled and cleaned
12 cherry tomatoes, halfed
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
- heat medium skillet on medium-high heat.
- pat dry pork, and dredge in a mix of flour, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of cayenne.
- sear the meat on all sides until a brown crust forms; remove from pan and place in a crock pot.
- cut cleaned green chiles into strips and add to crock pot with halfed cherry tomatoes.
- cover the pork, green chiles and tomatoes with chicken stock and water.
- add some salt and pepper.
- place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low about 18 hours, or until the pork is tender and falls apart.
- melt the butter in a small saucepan, and add the flour to create a roux.
- with the green chile mixture on the stovetop over medium heat, add the roux, stirring constantly until thickened.
enjoy the green chile in a bowl, topped with grated cheddar, a little chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream. or over your burrito of choice. i also serve it over omelets. truth be told, i eat it on top of just about anything.