Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green chile

Here in Colorado, green chile is ubiquitous. It's served by itself, as stew (usually thinned with stock), but more often as a condiment for burritos, tamales, eggs, meat dishes etc. I don't think it's very common outside of Colorado, New Mexico... maybe a couple other places. And interestingly, there's not a lot of recipes for it online, and there seems to be wild debate on message boards. A couple things I've decided about green chile, which may or may not be right:
1. Green chile should be made of New Mexico Hatch chiles
2. The chiles are roasted and peeled first
3. It does not contain tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro, or really much else.
4. It contains pork

I don't really like pork very much. So I decided to try to make a somewhat traditional green chile (ie follow observations 1-3), but without the pork. I thought some chicken, flavorful, fatty chicken, might give the green chile the required depth in place of the pork. I got a "stewing chicken" from our CSA thinking it might do the trick. I don't claim that this is traditional, the correct way, the best way, or anything else, but it did work fairly well.

I took a similar approach to making pho ga, the Vietnamese chicken soup, which I learned to make from Tin's mom Thuy. My thinking was that I would end up with a bunch of awesome chicken stock, some cooked chicken, and some chicken fat to work into the green chile.

The chiles, as I noted above, are roasted first. I didn't do this part particularly well, so I am writing the recipe as it should be made, not as I made it. My problem was I roasted them for too long, and the chile flesh got a bit burned and dry. The parts of the chile that weren't as subject to high heat were the best. So onto the recipe!

1 whole chicken (you won't use all of it)
About two dozen green chiles, I used mostly Hatch, and some Anaheim
4 cloves garlic, minced

Part 1 - the chicken
1. Rinse the chicken.
2. Boil water in a stockpot, add chicken. You can throw in some charred onion or other vegetables (char the onion directly over a gas burner).
3. Bring to a boil again over medium heat, then reduce, and let simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Pull out the chicken, make sure it's done. Put on some gloves (latex are fine, it'll be hot and they help a little) and used a fork and knife and your fingers (with caution, hot!) to pull the meat of the carcass.
5. Return the carcass to the stock and boil for another hour or two or however long you want.
6. Chill the stock overnight in the fridge.
7. In the morning, skim the fat off the top, and save it.

Part 2 - the chiles
1. Wash the chiles. One comment on a message board says to rub the chiles with lard or shortening, saying that it helps cook the chiles more evenly and makes the skinning easier. I haven't tried this, but might next time.
2. Put the chiles on the grate of your preheated grill. If it's a gas grill, I would probably aim for only about half heat, but it's all relative.
3. Watch the chiles carefully. As soon as you see black and blistering skin, turn the chile, getting them as evenly cooked as possible. I think when I cook this again, I will err on the side of underdone.
4. As they finish cooking, but them in a bowl and cover with a damp dishtowel. Let them sit and steam until they are cool enough to handle.
5. Peel off the skins. Gloves are again useful, especially if you wear contact lens and will eventually want to touch your eyes! Discard any stems and big clumps of seeds. The seeds that stick to the inner membranes are fine to leave.
6. Chop the peeled, cooked chiles roughly (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice, but shouldn't be terribly uniform).

Part 3 - unification
1. Heat up a little of the reserved chicken fat in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. If this grosses you out, use a neutral oil.
2. Add in the garlic and all the chopped up chiles. Stir occasionally for 5 minutes. My thinking here was to evoke any of the fat-soluble flavors from the chiles.
3. Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the chiles; you won't use all of it. Cover and simmer for about half an hour.
4. Take the reserved chicken out of the fridge and shred or chop. You want the chicken in small pieces... and not long strings. You can put as much chicken into the chile as you want.
5. Add as much chicken as you want and simmer for another half an hour or so. Simmer without the lid if seems too soupy.

My version of this chile was quite spicy (it all depends on the spiciness of chiles though). I knew it would take a while to eat it all, so I froze it in an ice cube tray for little blocks that are the perfect size to accompany a fried egg! In fact I think my favorite breakfast of the moment might be two over easy eggs with sliced tomatoes (too bad the season's over! no more in our CSA...), grated Cabot cheddar cheese, and green chile on some warmed corn tortillas, as is pictured below (actually this looks like wheat tortilla, corn is better :)

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