My Jeta Farms CSA share this week contained New Mexico green chilies. The CSA farmer told me he had gotten the seeds from a New Mexico farmer and had grown the peppers here on his farm this year. They were beautiful. I did some research and learned more about these green chilies.

They are deep green peppers, five or six inches in length, and have been cultivated throughout New Mexico for quite a long time. Native peoples there still grow some of the older heirloom varieties, and there are newer varieties planted all over the state, as well.

The chilies can have a bit of a kick to them, so taste the sauce and do not use too much when preparing the enchiladas, if you do not like it too spicy.

In New Mexico the chilies are fire-roasted, peeled, chopped and made into a well-known sauce. The sauce can be used on a lot of dishes. You can have green chile sauce with your breakfast eggs, on enchiladas, in a stew made with pork for dinner or in any dish you think you may like it on.

Dilemma – what is the correct spelling – chile or chili? In my research I also discovered this spelling controversy and my spellchecker wants me to use chili.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Las Cruces, N.M. — Chili vs. chile.

The war over how to spell New Mexico’s most valuable vegetable crop continues to rage for the head of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University.

Paul Bosland, director of the institute and the school’s chief chile breeder, has been trying for years to get everyone to spell chile–the hot peppers or the plant from which the peppers come–with an “e.” He says chili–the spicy dish of meat and sometimes beans–should be spelled with an “i.”

“A lot of people argue about it,” he said. 

The word chile originated from the Aztec word “chil,” meaning pepper. Bosland said the Spanish added an “e” to the end of the word to make it a noun in their language.

Advertisements lining the back roads in the lower Rio Grande Valley, where most of New Mexico’s peppers are grown, spell it chile. Just across the border in Texas, restaurants advertise their state dish as “chili.”

Bosland has heard quite a few arguments against the New Mexico way of spelling chile.

“One person said you can’t use c-h-i-l-e because that’s the name of a country. That’s true, but Turkey seems to have done quite well,” he said. “Some say the English spell it c-h-i-l-l-i. Well, they also spell color with a “u.”

Webster’s Dictionary helps to complicate the matter. It provides three spellings–chili, chile and chilli–that are all defined as either hot peppers or a dish of meat and spices.

The Associated Press uses chili. Norman Goldstein, AP Stylebook editor, says the “i” spelling is more commonly used in most other parts of the nation.

The Los Angeles Times spells the vegetable “chile” and the spicy soup “chili.” The sauce made of chile, onion and tomato? Chile sauce.

Chicken and Green Chile Enchiladas

You may also use leftover, cooked chicken, if you have it on hand, instead of cooking the chicken breasts, as described below. If you do, then use prepared chicken broth.

I use 6 inch corn tortillas. If you use a different size, you will have to adjust the recipe amounts.

For the Chicken
1 1⁄2 lbs. chicken breasts
1 small carrot
1 small onion
1 garlic clove

For the Enchiladas
8 soft 6 inch white corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese mix, divided
5 scallions, chopped

Directions

Make the chicken:

In a large saucepan, place the chicken breasts, carrot, onion and garlic. Add enough water to cover and bring to a simmer.

Let simmer until the meat is cooked through and the broth is flavorful, about 30 minutes.

Strain, reserving both the broth and the chicken separately. Let the chicken rest until cool enough to handle.

Shred the meat and discard the bones and skin. Set aside.

Reserve 1 ½ cups of broth for the sauce and 1 cup for softening tortillas.

Make the green chile sauce, recipe below.

Combine the shredded chicken, chopped scallions and ½ cup of cheese in a mixing bowl.

Make the enchiladas:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cover the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch glass baking dish or a dish that will fit 8 enchiladas in a single layer with a thin layer of green chile sauce.

Heat the 1 cup of chicken broth.

To soften the tortillas so they can be rolled without breaking, dip them very briefly in the hot broth, until softened slightly.

Working with one tortilla at a time, distribute about 3 tablespoons of the shredded chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla.

Roll the tortilla loosely into a cigar shape to cover the filling, then transfer seam side down to the prepared baking dish.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas and chicken, placing the enchiladas snugly side by side.

Ladle additional green chile sauce over the top to coat all the tortillas.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the sauce, cover with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through and the sauce is beginning to bubble, about 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake until the top is browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes more.

Serve the enchiladas with sour cream, if desired.

New Mexico Green Chile Sauce

I double the recipe, so I can freeze some of the sauce for another Mexican dish.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons masa harina flour (corn flour) or regular flour
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock, see above
1 cup chopped roasted and peeled New Mexico Hatch green chilies
1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

To prepare the peppers:

The peppers need to be roasted on the grill or under a broiler before making the sauce.

Place the chiles on an outdoor grill or under the broiler and roast until the skin is charred and blistered, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Avoid completely blackening the chiles; you’re looking for them to be about 40% to 50% charred.

Using tongs, turn the chiles over and roast on the other side until the skin is charred and blistered, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the chiles from the grill or broiler and place them in a paper bag, food-safe plastic bag or heat-safe bowl.

Close the bag or cover the bowl, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. The steam will help loosen the peel from the chiles.

When cool enough to handle, pull the skins off and set aside.

To prepare the sauce:

(I do not like the sauce chunky, so I puree the chopped peppers with half of the chicken broth first and then add it to the sauce.)

In a medium sauce pan, saute the onion and garlic in the oil over medium-high heat, until tender (about 3 minutes).

Stir in the flour, cumin, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Stir in the stock and simmer until thick and smooth.

Stir in the chiles and oregano.

Cool the sauce and store in refrigerator, covered, for up to one day.

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