Tag Archives: new mexico
Surely if you’ve ever met anyone from New Mexico, they’ve told you all about the green and red chile. Not chili. Chili comes in a can. Chile, with an “e”. If you want to be really authentic about pronunciation: Chee-leh. And if you want to sound like a NM native when ordering at a restaurant, ask for “Christmas”–you’ll get both green and red chile sauce on your plate. I recommend doing this if it’s your first time so you can decide for yourself if you prefer green or red. I’m partial to green but I definitely get cravings for both. And no joke–I actually felt like I had withdrawal symptoms when I moved to Seattle, something that many transplanted New Mexicans experience. Have you ever visited New Mexico? Notice how unusually laid-back and mellow the locals are? Notice how slow the pace of life is and how everything can be put off until mañana? The molecular makeup of chile must be similar to heroin or something. But please, do not let that deter you from devouring NM chile if you’re ever provided the opportunity.
Since this is my first post dedicated to New Mexico, I’ll give you a bit of background: Green and red chile come from the same plant. Green ripens to make red and each has its own distinct taste. Late summer is green chile roasting time, when practically the whole state swims in the distinctive odor of charred chile flesh, pounds of it tumbling around in giant steel mesh barrels over open fire at farms and grocery stores everywhere. That smell is the unmistakable signal of fall approaching. Green chile is used to make stews, salsas, enchiladas, burritos, mashed potatoes. It’s the absolute best on cheeseburgers. You know you’re from New Mexico when you find yourself wondering “how would this taste with green chile?” on a daily basis. Fall and winter are traditionally for red chile, which are dried and hung in ristras until used for chile colorado, red chile enchiladas, posole and menudo (traditional Christmas stews).
If you want to learn more, click here for a great website about New Mexico chile, complete with instructional videos about how to roast the green and prepare the dried red chiles for the sauce that serves as the base for all of the above mentioned dishes.
My mom of course grows green chile in the summer and makes red chile ristras in the fall, most of which she gives to family as gifts:
Mom is also a big time chile smuggler, my interstate hook-up. When we meet up with our family in the Phoenix area for Christmas, she usually brings her legendary tamales, frozen green chile that’s already been roasted and peeled, and sometimes a bag of ready-to-use, coarsely ground dried red chile. How serious is all of this? Well, last year my folks skipped the trip to AZ and decided to stay in NM, which presented the terrible conundrum of me not getting my annual stash. No doubt feeling a little guilty about this, Mom offered to make the 4-hour drive (8 hours round trip) from Alamogordo to meet my brother “halfway” in Wilcox AZ since he was doing some work there. The proposal was for him to get the stuff from her, keep it frozen somehow, transport it back to Tempe to his own freezer, and then hand it off to me. The only minor problems with this plan were: 1) My brother can’t keep track of his wallet and keys let alone bags of frozen green chile and tamales, 2) There was likely nowhere to keep everything frozen at his work site (he’s an electrician), and 3) I couldn’t justify her making an 8-hour drive which would likely cost more than just overnighting everything to me. Refusing to be hoodwinked by FedEx, she didn’t understand the rationale of this argument, so I just told her to not worry about it this year. However, once her mind is made up about something, she’ll find a way to do it; she ended up making a trip to AZ the week before Christmas to visit my great-aunt, and left everything safely in her freezer for me. Crisis averted!