Friday, September 12, 2014

Roasting Green Chiles for Chile Verde

Making fresh chile verde is a seasonal pleasure, and very simple once you get over the (perceived) hassle of roasting the chiles, especially if you follow contributor Jim Dixon's instructions below. If you get ambitious and decide to roast a bunch of chiles, just bag up the extras and throw 'em in the freezer for posole or enchiladas this winter!

Oregon Green Chile Sauce

Green chile invites controversy, even in its home state of New Mexico (or Colorado, but that's another can of worms). The simplest recipes combine the green chiles (usually roasted, but not always) with onion, cumin and oregano, and use a simple flour roux as a thickener. Some add tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes or even canned enchilada sauce. Meat usually means pork, but some swear by chicken. And then there's the allegiance to Hatch chiles.

Pick a pepper. Roast it.

I won't claim my version is anything close to what you'll eat in New Mexico, but it tastes good. There are a lot of chiles grown here in Oregon, and you'll find them now at the farmers market and the better supermarket produce sections. You can usually find poblanos and anaheims if the seasonal New Mexican varieties aren't around. Anaheims are usually mild, but poblanos can vary, so try to taste them first.

Start by roasting the chiles. It takes extra time, but getting most of the waxy skin off really improves the final results. Thin-skinned green chiles are best roasted quickly, and a gas burner works well (I've also used a blow torch, and my very first published story about cooking was about roasting peppers with my old cross country ski waxing torch). If you don't have a gas stove, put them under the broiler, but either way, keep turning them until the chiles are blistered all over, then put them in a covered bowl or plastic bag to steam for a few minutes. Use your fingers to remove as much as of the skin as you can, but it's okay to leave some attached. You can do it under running water, although some claim this removes some of the flavor, too.

Roast several at a time.

Remove the stem and seed core (a few seeds won't hurt) and chop coarsely. Chop an onion and start cooking it in extra virgin olive oil. Add a half dozen chopped tomatillos (optional, but I like the bright acidity they add), then the chopped chiles. If you want a pork or chicken version, add a pound or so of either, cut into bite-sized pieces (shoulder for pork, thigh meat for chicken are my choices). Add some salt, a teaspoon or more of ground cumin and about the same amount of oregano. Keep it at a lively simmer for about 30 minutes or until the meat is done and the tomatillos have broken down.

Sprinkle in a few tablespoons of good cornmeal, preferably Ayers Creek, but that requires a stash in the freezer or a trip to the Hillsdale Farmers Market on a Sunday; for more info, e-mail Anthony Boutard to subscribe to the Ayers Creek newsletter. [You can also read his newsletters here at Good Stuff NW under Farm Bulletin. - KB] Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for another 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Eat with a spoon, over scrambled eggs or on a cheeseburger.

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