Growing up in Columbus, Nebraska, I didn’t get exposed to a lot of hot foods. My mother was of Polish descent and my father was of Swiss descent, but though I ate lots of good food, the food didn’t include a lot of hot peppers. Some horseradish, certainly, but no peppers.
Somewhere in the late 60s or so, a Taco John’s moved into town. I bet I didn’t even go to Taco John’s more than a handful of times, and it would have had to have been a pretty small hand. I just didn’t eat spicy food (or even anything purporting to be Mexican in nature).
So it’s really kind of interesting that I was so immediately taken with Mexican cuisine when my family moved to Leadville, Colorado, in the early 1970s. Not just taken with it – drawn to it, really. And the spicier, the better.
I have a theory that our bodies crave what our bodies need. Perhaps the reason I am a compulsive spicy food eater is that the capcaicin in peppers is good for arthritis – at least some researchers tell me so. Frankly, I’m not sure I ever feel any different if I eat peppers or don’t eat peppers. Well, perhaps my stomach isn’t on fire if I don’t eat green chilie, but other than that…..
When I was in the hospital a couple of years ago and found out that I was going to have a foot of my colon removed, literally the first question I asked the doctor was whether or not I was going to be able to eat spicy foods. Luckily my doctor – Dr. Jose Lopez – assured me that I wouldn’t have to give up the spice I loved. He could totally relate.
All this is to tell you that I consumed what is perhaps the spiciest meal I’ve ever eaten the other evening at my nephew Erik’s house. He has been talking smack about his green chile stew, and I do love me some green chile stew. Green chile stew is my favorite thing about New Mexico. Green chile stew is pretty much green chile, a bit thicker perhaps, with the addition of potatoes.
Erik had gotten his hand on some green chiles from a friend of his – the real deal, from Hatch, New Mexico. He warned me in advance that the chiles were hot. He just didn’t tell me that smoke would come out my ears.
I ate three bowls.
I watched him clean and chop and saute and simmer, and the result was a rich, dark-colored stew brimming with pork, chiles, and potatoes. It was yummy.
He offered me my choice of meat – pork, ground beef, ground turkey. I chose pork…
He cleaned the chiles…..
Cooked until it resulted in this…..
The chile was tremendous, if hot.
Here’s Erik’s recipe. Keep in mind, it isn’t inherently hot. Your green chiles determine the heat — both the chiles themselves, and how many you use. For less heat, make sure you remove ALL the seeds and membranes, and use fewer.
New Mexican Style Green Chile Stew
10-15 roasted green chiles,chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4-5 T. Vegetable oil
1.25 pounds of meat (pork, ground beef or ground turkey)
½ medium onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 Tblspoons Flour
2-1/2 to 3 c. water and/or Chicken Broth
10 oz can of Rotel (Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles)
14.5 oz can of Sliced Potatoes or 1 large potato (peeled & cut into ½ inch cubes)
Season meat and chile with garlic salt, and saute in vegetable oil until meat is browned and onion is translucent, about 15-20 mins. Add garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes. Shake in 2-3 heaping T. of flour, and stir. The flour should soak up the oil in the pan and lightly coat the meat. Continue to stir and allow the flour to burn off for about 5 min.
Add water, Rotel tomatoes, potatoes, and the chopped green chiles. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Add by leaf. Let cook for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
Serve with cheese and tortillas on the side, or serve stew over warmed tortillas in a bowl.
Nana’s Notes: Erik freezes his chiles with the skins still on. When it comes time to use them, he thaws them for a bit, then cleans them. He DOES NOT clean them under water as his friend said that washes off some of the pepper’s natural oils and removes some of the heat. After he pulls off the skin, he squeezes out the seeds, leaving a few. In the past I always cleaned the chiles before I froze them, and I used water.
The night he made the chile, he used canned potatoes. He was somewhat sheepish, but I assured him shortcuts didn’t cause me any angst. The potatoes tasted delicious.
Also, Erik didn’t use rubber gloves when he cleaned them. If your friend was going to drive his car off a cliff, would you follow him? I use rubber gloves!