It’s as personal as how your family makes their Thanksgiving gravy, the kind of cake you want for your birthday, or how you order the perfect cup of coffee. Virtually everyone in the Southwest has their own unique green chile sauce recipe. Some are strictly green chile and stock, others add tomato. Some are mild and mellow. Others have you howling ‘holy scovilles!’ and that can be found at The Shed in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
And to be clear, the traditional name for this recipe is Green Chile. But it looks like a sauce, and was introduced to me as a sauce, so no offense but I oftentimes call it … sauce.
If you’re planning to visit Santa Fe and want to develop your own recipe, I recommend taking the Hands-On green chile workshop at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. That’s where I first learned how to recognize those banana-shaped bright green peppers called Hatch, New Mexican, Anaheim, Big Jim to name a few. Their Demonstration Classes are where some of the city’s finest chefs prepare thoughtfully planned menus, tell stories about the history of the ingredients. Delicious and educational.
Roasting them, getting a good char all over with a little green still showing, gives them a wonderful smoky flavor. And an aroma that you’ll never forget. Peppery robust herbie intoxicating. I use a stovetop roasting grill over my electric burner. On high heat turning them often with tongs, they’re done in 5 to 7 minutes. This step goes quickly, don’t leave them alone.
If you have a gas stove, char them over the burner flames. Or you can bbq grill, or oven broil. Whichever method, you want a good blistered char, but not burned.
From the grill into a sealed baggie for 20 -25 minutes steams them and loosens the skin from the meat. You can also steam in a bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap.
Careful for hot steam when you open the baggie and place them on your cutting board.
Cut off the stems and pull the skins off with your hands. They will slip right off. Some pieces of black char will stick to the chile meat, that’s okay.
Cut open to remove the seeds, although I like some seeds in my sauce. A little indication that, yes this is the real deal.
At this point you have a stack of green fillets. I’ve said it before….every single time they look like squid that grew up in a kelp forest. But not slimy.
Cut into 1/4-inch pieces.
Fine chopped onion and minced garlic sauteed in canola oil. Or vegetable oil. But not olive oil, that changes the flavor and does not work with this recipe. Adding flour thickens it into a paste. Stirring and mashing it around the pan for 2 minutes or so cooks the flour. You don’t want anyone to taste it and ask ‘is this thickened with flour?’ because it left a raw uncooked taste.
Seasoning with ground coriander seed? It’s not as highly debated as adding cumin. If you’re ever at a dinner party in the Southwest and the conversation isn’t lively enough, just pipe up with ‘I was reading green chile recipes the other day and it said to add cumin.’ That should get the table buzzing. Not in a bad way. Something akin to speaking up at a Santa Fe Historical Society meeting that you’d like to move a door on a 400-year-old adobe structure a few inches to the right. Wait, I think I went a little too far there. That’d be more of a sandstorm than lively conversation. (Actually, I have a great affection for that society because they are the reason Santa Fe remains the most beautiful city in the United States. I won’t budge on that.) So, back to the coriander. I like a little, and a little goes a long way. No cumin. Because for me it takes over the chile and hides that delicious smoky herbie flavor that I’ve spent so much time charring and prepping to get just right.
Look at those green beauties. Add chicken stock and within a few minutes it thickens and bubbles. End with two tablespoons of butter, another debatable choice but makes for a silky finish. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes minimum.
When I first moved to the Southwest, people told me I’d start to crave chiles every week. It’s more like every other day for me. Like a mission to see how many meals I can get them into. A base for stews and tortilla soup. Mr.D puts it in miso soup (it’s fantastic, really.) Smothered over chopped steak sandwiches, ham and eggs, cheese grits, over pork chops and biscuits. And of course smothered burritos, tamales, enchiladas, a spoonful straight-up from the bowl…
The pride and darling of the Southwest. I’d order that.