Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
I’ve spent most of my life living in the West, but it wasn’t until I moved to Colorado that I discovered green chile. Of course I had eaten green chiles, usually as part of a Mexican dish, but when I moved to Colorado and saw it featured on restaurant menus in nearly every local joint I visited, I had to try it. And after just one bite, I was hooked. I’ve lived here for a decade now, and it never ceases to amaze me how much the small addition of green chile to just about any dish – burgers, sandwiches, even soup – wakes up the flavor and adds a hearty heat that renders the dish more satisfying.
New Mexico natives often claim that classic green chile – a simple mixture of peeled and roasted green chiles simmered with chicken broth, onions, cumin and oregano– is native to that state. It may be true. Hatch, New Mexico, calls itself the “Chile Capital of the World,” and each Labor Day weekend hosts the Hatch Chile Festival, boasting an attendance of more than 30,000 people.
But New Mexico is just down the road a piece, and good green chile can be found close to home, too. Most restaurants in Castle Pines – including Duke’s, Las Fajitas, A Taste of Mexico, and The Ridge at Castle Pines North have green chile on the menu; its classic flavor is par for the course at area eateries like the Castle Café (see a review of the Castle Café on page 33). But home cooks can use green chiles too, and this is the perfect time of year to get them. Green chiles are available year-round canned or frozen, but right now fresh ones are readily available. On September 7, Tony’s Market in Castle Pines Village will host a chile roasting event at their store, so cooks in Castle Pines can easily grab some to enjoy.
Roasted chiles should be peeled – it’s easy to shred the fragile skin from a roasted pepper – then seeded and chopped. Toss them into salsa, scrambled eggs, cornbread or meatloaf. To make an easy sauce, sauté half an onion until soft, then add a cup of chicken broth, a cup of chopped green chile, half a teaspoon of cumin (or less if you want milder flavor) and a dash of oregano and simmer the mixture together for 15 minutes or so. The sauce is great with chicken or pork, but my favorite way to eat it is on a burger with a slice of melting Monterey Jack cheese.
For something a little fancier, try this green chile stew recipe from Tony’s Market. It’s a perfect one-pot supper that is hearty without being too heavy. One bite and you’ll be hooked.
Chicken Green Chile Stew
Recipe courtesy of Tony’s Market
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken
thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, chunked or chopped
2 medium russet potatoes, large cubes
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
12 oz. roasted, peeled and diced green chiles
4 cups chicken broth (plus more water or stock if needed)
1-3 tsp ground cumin, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
14 oz frozen corn kernels or mixed vegetables
In large Dutch oven over medium high heat, brown chicken pieces in oil. Remove chicken and reserve.
Immediately add celery, onion and potatoes and sauté until soft and lightly browned. Add tomatoes, chiles, stock, cumin, oregano and browned chicken thighs. Bring to a simmer, cooking partially covered until the meat is falling-apart tender and the potatoes are melting into the sauce (about 40-60 minutes). The stew can be simmered on the stovetop (stir regularly), or braised in the oven (no stirring required). Taste and adjust with salt and pepper, add stock or water as needed if excessive evaporation takes place.
Taste and adjust seasonings. If a thicker sauce is desired, temper in masa, cornstarch or flour and simmer several minutes to thicken. Add frozen corn kernels or mixed veggies and heat through. Serve with tortillas, rolls or corn muffins. Serves about 6.