Can you hear the fires burning and smell the roasted chiles in the air? I can because it’s Hatch chile season and I love Hatch chiles. Look at this beautiful green chile stew.
Hatch chile season has officially arrived. People in the Southwest look forward to this time of year because there is an abundance of Hatch chiles available. It’s magical! From mid-August through late September, when the sunlight is strong, the days are shorter, and the nights are cooler, in New Mexico, in the Mesilla valley along the Rio Grande River from Arrey, New Mexico in the north to Tonuco Mountain to the south of Hatch, New Mexico, the ideal harvesting conditions exist for these thick, shiny, luscious green pods of sweet and spicy goodness. For those of you not familiar with Hatch chiles and don’t know what the fuss over them is about, Hatch chiles are a designer chile of the genus Capsicum. There are multiple varieties, many of which were developed by New Mexico State University. Also, Mesilla Valley farmers are constantly developing new breeds and various tastes to satisfy a steady throng of new converts. For those who can’t stand the heat, there is a mild variety of Hatch chiles. They also have a medium hot variety of Hatch chile. Then you have the “slap yo mama” variety of hot Hatch chiles. Because of the different varieties, you control the heat index on whatever you fix by your selection of mild, medium or hot chiles. Pretty nifty, eh?
The harvest season for Hatch chiles runs from mid August with the green chile harvest and runs through the red chile harvest to the first frost. If you’re down around the El Paso-Las Cruces area you smell the chiles roasting almost everywhere. Not only does roasting provide a wonderful depth of flavor to the chiles but it allows you to preserve the chiles in your freezer and they will keep for up to a year. Be warned, however, that freezing roasted chiles tends to make them hotter. It’s a chemical kind of thing that is beyond me to even attempt to explain.
I know it’s still summer and stew is not exactly a summertime meal but we have actually had a beautiful summer. In fact, last week we had a beautifully sunny day with the low of 72F and the high of 84 F. These are unbelievable temperatures in DFW for August. Anyway, this dish is cooked in a crockpot so it doesn’t use a lot of electricity nor does it heat up the house. More importantly, it’s a celebration of Hatch chiles once again being available. This dish is wonderful, even in the summertime. Give it a try now or roast you up some wonderful Hatch chiles (if you can’t find them, you can order them online now), freeze them and use them when the temperatures drop down to soup weather this fall. Whatever you do, you definitely need to try this dish.
- 2 lbs pork loin, cubed 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 medium onions, medium dice
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade without salt)
- 2.5 Lbs Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced, small dice
- 2 large russet potatoes, cubed 1/2 cube
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp sea salt (if the chicken broth has salt, use 1 tsp sea salt and adjust to taste)
- 1 large tomato, cubed (optional)
- 1/3 cup lard
First, roast the chiles. Now, 2.5 lbs of Hatch Chiles is roughly 18 chiles so I roast them in 2 batches.
When sufficiently charred, place the chiles in a paper bag and let them sit for roughly 20 – 30 minutes to cool. When done, peel and seed them. DO NOT rinse them under running water like so many people do because you wash much of the flavor away. The skin will come off with very little trouble. Also, DO NOT touch your eyes or any other sensitive skin during or after peeling the chiles. I’ve learned this from experience. This can be a very painful experience. If you wear contacts, take them out BEFORE you peel the chiles. Even if you wash your hands, the oils from the chiles will stay in your skin for several hours afterwards.
Next, add the lard to a heavy bottom skillet and heat over high heat. When heated, add the cubed pork and brown.
When done, remove the pork and put in crockpot.
Add more lard to the skillet and sauté the onions.
When the onions have softened and attained a nice brown color from the sucs from the pork, roughly 3 – 5 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
When done, add the onions and garlic to the crockpot.
Now, add the finely diced green chiles
Add the spices, diced tomato and potatoes. Now traditional green chile stew does not have tomatoes. Nonetheless, New Mexicans have been putting tomatoes in their green chile stew for years as it add another dimension to the stew and provides color. If you want a more traditional green chile stew, omit the tomato.
Add chicken stock
Stir everything together, put the lid on the crockpot, set on high and cook for 5 – 5/12 hours. Serve and enjoy!
NOTES: Now, I’m not a real fan of crockpot cooking because I like to play with my food. Nonetheless, this is a perfect dish to cook in a crockpot. Generally, when I make this dish I use a large pot over low heat and add more chicken stock as the water evaporates. It generally takes me 2 quarts of chicken stock following this method but it provides a wonderfully rich sauce with greater depth of flavor. You also do not add the potatoes until toward the end. The drawback to this method is 1) it heats your house up; and 2) you have to constantly stir the pot to keep the stew from sticking to the bottom and burning. I didn’t have time to do that yesterday so out came the crockpot. It seals the juices in and produces a wonderful stew.