It rivals the aroma of bread baking or a pot roast simmering. But, unlike bread and meat, fresh green chile is a seasonal delight that we only get to enjoy as summer fades into early autumn. It is often accompanied by a sudden new tang in the air that signals a change of season, a slant to the light that reminds us that the earth has begun its annual northern tilt away from the sun.
McElmo Canyon farmer Rex Tozer was center stage on Saturday at the Cortez Farmers Market with his gas-fired roaster spinning bushel after bushel of Anaheim chile for a line of customers smiling and salivating as they waited the 10 minutes it takes for chile to go from bright green to blistered black.
We don’t often equate the color black with food since it often means something’s gone horribly wrong in the kitchen, as in burnt-to-an Apple Crisp. But in the case of chile, black is the color we want because it tells us it is ready to be peeled and seeded. Roasting also gently cooks the flesh of the chile, softens it, and intensifies its flavor.
Peeling a roasted chile begins by letting it steam in its burlap sack, paper or plastic bag, or fabric bag (I save Cortez Milling flour sacks) for an hour to 24 hours. This helps to loosen the skin. If the chile has been thoroughly and uniformly blackened),the skin will slide right off. Occasionally there are a few bits of green skin that have to be coaxed off with a fingernail or a knife, but a well-roasted chile skin will slip off more easily than a honeymoon negligee.
Once skinned, slice it vertically stem to stern, keeping the stem intact (for chile rellenos), and scoop out the seeds, leaving the few that cling tenaciously. Don’t rinse these beauties – you’ll wash away some of the delicious juice.
Here’s a Southwestern standard sure to spice up your table. I’ve adapted it from Santa Fe’s famed Pink Adobe Restaurant cookbook by Rosalea Murphy, and made a few additions. It’s fast. It’s easy. And it’s regional. All the ingredients, including the meat, can be found at the farmers market. Enjoy it with a green salad, sliced tomatoes, warm flour tortillas, and a sparkling beverage.
Pink Green Chile Stew
BROWN: 2 lbs. boneless pork, cut into 1” cubes, in olive oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottom pan.
ADD: 1 thinly sliced onion, 2-3 cloves minced garlic and ½ C flour.
STIR: For a couple minutes until everything is well blended and beginning to brown.
ADD: 2 C peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes, and 2 C roasted, peeled, and chopped fresh green chile. (Use more or less according to your taste and the chile quality.) 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp sugar, freshly ground black pepper
Optional: one fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped fine.
MIX: To incorporate.
ADD: 2 C chicken or beef broth. The finished product should be stew-like, not too soupy but with some liquid floating in the bowl. Adjust the liquid accordingly as it cooks.
COOK: Over low heat, covered, for about an hour. Meanwhile, chunk up 2-3 peeled potatoes in hefty 2” pieces, large mouthful size.
ADD: The potatoes and continue cooking until fork tender but not mushy and the meat is tender. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
SERVE: In bowls. For some reason, crockery always seems to befit green chile stew. (If you don’t have any, you can purchase beautiful handmade pottery from Jeanette Harrell of Menefee Mountain Pottery who is at the market every week next door to Abby’s Thai Massage booth.)
Motones bring it on
The Motones added their own heat on Saturday with their signature blend of rock ’n’ roll classics, country swing, and supersized with some serious tenor saxophone solos from Mark Allen. The music, like the chile, was so hot that some shoppers took time out to dance before plunging back into the sea of produce.
SongHaven offering shares in produce
SongHaven Farm and Fury’s Farm will soon be selling Community Supported Agriculture shares for the 2015 growing season. CSA shares entitle a shareholder to a portion of the produce grown on that farm. Shares are purchased in advance of the growing season so that producers can anticipate how much seed and supplies to purchase and to help offset early season production costs. In return, the shareholder is guaranteed a box of fresh produce every week for 15 weeks, with items varying from week to week based on the garden’s output. All produce sold through a CSA share is guaranteed to be fresh, seasonal, and organic. Stop by and see Moqui at Fury’s Farm or Michelle at SongHaven Farm to get more information.
What’s coming up
What to look forward to: Rex Tozer will be taking orders for McElmo Canyon peaches starting next week. And of course there will be plenty more chile, a little or a lot, in whatever quantity suits your needs. Tomatoes continue to abound. Eggplant, okra, carrots, turnips, beets, beans, broccoli, and early melons and corn are available as well as a proliferation of garlic and herbs. Specialty jams and jellies are appearing like manna from heaven. It’s an eye-popping bounty at every stand and all of it is grown right here by our neighbors and friends, our homegrown farmers.