In our house, we are die-hard fans of Hatch New Mexico green chilies. Both of us migrated westward from New York State; one of us lived in New Mexico for 28 years, the other for about 5. Now we live in Central Texas. But New Mexico and New Mexico green chilies are in our blood. We miss the mountains of Albuquerque, the soft, velvety hills of Santa Fe and the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the intense sunlight, the lack of humidity (Lord, yes!). But we especially miss the smell of roasting green chiles on a crisp fall evening.
The last trip we made to New Mexico, I was able to bring back a 25 lb. sack of Hatch chiles. Once we were home, I rinsed them well, then roasted them and put them in small quantities into freezer bags, leaving skins and seeds intact. I've found they're easier to peel after the chiles have been frozen; the skins slip off with little resistance and you can easily remove the stem and seed core.
You can roast Hatch chiles (and most chiles) in a variety of ways. If you shop at Central Market in September, then you can see chiles being roasted the way I first saw them being done in Albuquerque: in a big mesh barrel roaster that is turned slowly over a gas flame. The smell of roasting chiles is almost indescribable, but let me try. Smoky, sweet, deeply intense. And totally seductive. The best part is that they taste like they smell, but there's heat and that great capsicum flavor too.
At home, I roast chiles either on my gas grill or in a very hot oven, straight on the baking racks. When the skins are brown and blistered, you know they're ready to freeze or peel and use right away. If you want to know how to roast your own chiles and peppers, find out here. It's easy and fun--especially if you have helpers. But wear latex gloves! Even mild chiles burn hands and eyes--something I found out the hard way during my first chile-processing experience in Albuquerque.
Of course, you can use canned green chile. But there is no substitute for hand-roasted green chile. We use it in so many ways: green chile stew with pork (and sometimes posole), green chile cheeseburgers (my husband's favorite), green chile "gravy" with lots of garlic and onion for huevos rancheros on a weekend morning, or mixed with cream cheese and other goodies as a spread for bagels or tortilla roll-ups. And one of my favorites: green chile cream sauce for ladling over lots of good things.
Here's what I used my green chile cream sauce for this time:
Seafood Enchiladas with Hatch New Mexico Green Chile Cream Sauce
You can substitute cooked, chopped chicken breast for the crab and shrimp and get fabulous results.
First, make the cream sauce:
2 Tbs. EVOO or butter
3 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup half and half or milk
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped roasted New Mexico chiles, skins, stems and seeds removed
1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan until rippling; add flour and whisk until a paste is formed.
2. Reduce heat and add milk, whisking until smooth.
3. Add chicken broth and whisk until smooth; bring to slow boil.
4. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes to allow sauce to thicken slightly.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Stir in green chile, blend well and keep warm until ready to use, or chill for later use. Makes about 2 cups.
Now make the enchiladas:
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chopped cooked shrimp or imitation crabmeat (or a combination)
salt and pepper to taste
6 to 8 white corn tortillas, warmed slightly
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (you can substitute mild cheddar)
1. Spray a small flat casserole dish or pan with non-stick spray and ladle some cream sauce into the dish, making sure there is enough to cover the bottom. Set aside.
2. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat.
3. Cook onion in butter for about 3 minutes or until translucent.
4. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
5. Stir in seafood, salt and pepper and blend well. Cook for about 1 minute until ingredients meld. Remove from heat.
6. Place a tortilla in the palm of one hand; sprinkle about 2 Tbs. cheese along the diameter.
7. Spoon seafood filling along diameter.
8. Gently roll tortilla around filling and place seam-side down in prepared pan.
9. Continue until all the filling is used.
10. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until bubbling.
11. Remove foil and cover with remaining cheese.
12. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
13. Remove from oven and let stand for about 10 minutes to set up. Serves 2 very hungry people and 4 as part of a larger meal.
What to drink: Well, of course, beer comes to mind. But since I am not a beer-drinking person, I reached for something else with bubbles. Cresta Azul Vino de Aguja (Spain) is a naturally carbonated blend of grapes in a delightful, fizzy, slightly sweet context. It's not at all champagne, it doesn't have to be. It is what it is: light, white, summery, tropical and best of all, inexpensive. You should find this wine for well under $10. Another suggestion is to try a vinho verde, available most everywhere. My particular favorite: Santola Vinho Verde (Portugal). You can find this effervescent, light and entirely gulpable wine for about $6 a bottle. It's the one with the beautiful red crab on the label. Ask your wine guy for "the crab wine." He'll know what you're talkin' about.
May your tastebuds dance!