It's a magical time of year in New Mexico. Everywhere you go, there are big tumbling chile roasters, in market parking lots and on street corners. The delicious scent on the fall breeze is enough to make your mouth (and eyes) water, and even to mask the stench of nearby fast food joints. It's Green Chile Season, and it's a good reason to celebrate.
More and more I'm making our food from scratch, which takes a bit more time, but pays off in much better meals. So when Lauren brought home a big box of freshly roasted, steaming chiles a few days ago, I was happy to jump in and start peeling them. It's a messy job, but it's necessary. The roasted chiles are placed in a bag right out of the roaster, so they can steam, which loosens the tough, charred skins. when they're cool enough to handle, you peel the skins off, and if you really want to super-prep your chiles, you can remove the seeds, ribs, and stems. I just deal with the skins, and then freeze the chiles whole for future use, setting some aside for immediate consumption.
I like to make Green Chile Stew first. It's a favorite spicy, comforting meal that assures us we'll be warm in the long winter ahead. If you eat enough of this stuff, you'll be heated from the inside out, no matter what the weather is doing. My most recent batch was my best ever, but of course I was too busy cooking to write it all down. I think I can give you the basics though.
Have some cooked black beans on hand, either made from scratch, or canned. I also like to dice and cook 2 or 3 potatoes, to add to the stew at the end. Start by sauteing a chopped yellow onion in a big pot. Add fresh garlic, carrots, red bell pepper, and celery. When they just start to soften, pour in a whole beer, and add 3 big tablespoons of corn flour (or 3 corn tortillas, buzzed up in the food processor). Next add a can of tomatoes, and a can - or box - of vegetable broth, depending on how big a batch you want to make. Let it thicken and bubble a few minutes, and then add a cup or two of chopped green chiles, fresh or frozen corn, cooked black beans, and cooked potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a little tamari if you have it.
There's no real way to gauge how hot your chiles are, and therefore how hot your chile stew will be. The guys doing the roasting will tell you they're mild, medium, or hot, but I don't think they really know. When you cook with fresh chiles, expect it to be hot and spicy. Serve your stew with bread and beer, and if you eat dairy, offer some sour cream and cheese as toppings to help cool the fire. I made a nice cashew sour cream that did the trick.
If you can get them, always use fresh roasted chiles. If you can't get them locally, try ordering from Southwest Chile Supply in Albuquerque.
You might find Bueno chiles in the freezer section of your favorite market. They're a good second choice.
And if all else fails, canned Ortega chiles are better than nothing.