Friday, January 11, 2013

Chile or Chili, it's Still Green.

Is it Chile or Chili? If it's the country in South America, it's Chile. If it's the singer from the group "TLC", it's Chilli; and when it's very cold outside, well that's Chilly. However, when it's the vegetable, it's the Green Chile Pepper, but when exactly does it become Chili? Then there's the plural, is it Chiles or Chilies? Confusing isn't it; and so many sources have so many definitions; so many recipes use the spellings so interchangeably.    Lets just get to the story of the Chile Pepper itself and the most popular one in the Southwest is the New Mexico Green Chile Pepper, primarily grown in Hatch, New Mexico.  Oh yes, there are numerous types of chile peppers within the United States, and worldwide, but I'm just going to focus on this one type for today's blog post.

Hatch chiles (ies) are available in a canned version, all roasted, seeded and peeled for you which is advantageous if you cannot find fresh chiles in your area.  This is what I had to do when I lived in Lancaster, PA, and while convenient, there was still that metallic taste from the aluminum cans to contend with.  Nope, there is no better alternative to fresh chiles than fresh chiles.

Roasting vegetables such as the chile pepper is actually not that difficult. No, you don't need that large barrel type roaster you may have seen on a cooking show; your own barbeque grill, stove top burner (gas only), or oven will do.  Do make sure to grease up the rack on your grill or in your oven; otherwise the chiles will stick and tear apart when being removed.

Remember, you can do the roasting techinque, not just for chile peppers, but those large bell peppers too. When jalapenos are roasted, they become known as chipotle, so be careful if you're one of those people who says, "I hate jalapenos, but love chipotles"; they're the same. Anyway, once the peppers are blackened, place them in a brown paper bag, seal it and let the steam from the peppers make your work easier. Once the peppers are warm to the touch, the skins will easily peel off; give the stems a twist and pull the seed pods right out. Give them a rinse, let them dry and they can be frozen for up to six months, or used immediately.

Two items you can make with your roasted peppers are Green Chile (or Chili) Sauce and Salsa Verde.  With Salsa Verde, it is made using tomatillo instead of actual green tomatoes.  The tomatillo, also known as tomato verde (green tomato) or Mexican husk cherry is related to the gooseberry, and in the nightshade family.

Basic Green Chile Sauce
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp canola oil
6 large green chile peppers; roasted, seeded, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin
2 cups water
In a large sauce pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat; saute' onion until softened; the garlic should be added when you see the onion just beginning to soften.  Reduce heat to low, add the peppers, cumin and water; simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally.  Puree to desired consistency using a blender or immersion blender; add salt to taste.
Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.
Basic Salsa Verde
6 tomatillos, removed from husks and washed
1/4 chopped onion
1 clove garlic
3 large large green chile peppers; roasted, seeded, peeled and chopped
Place tomatillos and water into a large saucepan; on medium-high heat, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. 
Quarter the tomatillos; add tomatillos, onion, garlic and peppers to a blender.   Set on puree and slowly add 1/4 cup water until ingredients achieve a smooth texture.
Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.
Ok, so what do you do with the sauces now?  While you can use them as dips for a party, they can be used in such Mexican recipes as enchiladas or burritos; used as toppings for a breakfast skillet or even in a main dish.  Here's a simple recipe you can make quickly at home; rice, grilled vegetables or a salad can serve as the side dish.

Green Chile Chicken
2 Tbsp olive oil
8 skinless chicken tenderloins
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp white wine
1 cup green chile sauce, warmed
8 tsp diced red tomatoes

In a large skillet, medium-high heat, heat the oil; place the chicken "skin side up" and evenly sprinkle with the oregano, black pepper and salt. Brown chicken for 3 minutes.

Turn the tenderloins over, remove the skillet from the heat and add the white wine; this will keep the wine from accidentally catching on fire. Remember, you're not making a flambe', you're just searing the chicken. Set back on heat and cook 3 minutes before removing from skillet.

Two tenderloins per serving, a tablespoon of sauce over each plus a teaspoon of diced red tomatoes.  So you'll get the heat temperature from the seared chicken and warmed sauce; the spicy heat of the green chiles grabs you; but now the cool, sweetness of the tomatoes gives you a full flavor taste explosion in your mouth.  Mexican style rice, grilled vegetables or even a simple salad as a side makes this a complete meal; and there's the key word: simple.


Mary Cokenour

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