Chile Pasado. Photo by Liddie Martinez
This week I have been applying lotion to my very dry skin and longing for the humid beaches of Hawaii. Our cold and dry New Mexico winters are very hard on our skin but living in the high desert does have its advantages.
Before refrigeration, the indigenous tribes of Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley took advantage of the hot, dry climate to preserve food by drying what they had gathered or hunted. Later, when they began cultivating corn, beans and chile they used the same techniques until refrigeration became widely available. While much changed with refrigeration, the value of this process was not lost on certain groups like cowboys, miners and soldiers whose work was in the field under less than ideal conditions. Because of their convenience, portability and intensified flavor, many of these traditional foods and dishes, like carne seca, chicos and chile pasado, are still popular today.
Chile Pasado is green chile that has been fire roasted, peeled, and dried on a string, clothesline fashion, or placed on screens to dry in the hot sun. Dry chile is very light weight, portable and, when steeped in boiling water with sun dried tomatoes and a few aromatics, makes the best green chile I have eaten – ever! I’m serious!
This is a dish my Grandmother used to make when winter set in and we were longing for the summer sun. It always made my mouth water when the sack of dried chile emerged from storage. This pre-Columbian dish originated in the states of Durango and Chihuahua, Mexico and has been prepared and eaten in New Mexico since the early colonization. New Mexico’s history is firmly tied to Durango, Mexico because both New Mexico and Chihuahua were part of the original Durango Diocese established in the early 1600s. In 1875 the Santa Fe Archdiocese became independent, but the bulk of our original historical records used/needed for genealogy are still housed in Durango, Mexico.
Because of the work undertaken by the missionaries to convert Native Americans to Catholicism in that period, the food they would have brought along and carried with them on these rural journeys for extended periods of time is exactly the food featured today.
What I can tell you about Chile Pasado is that once you make it, you will make certain that the ingredients needed to make it again will always be on hand, and why not – it’s easy now that we have dehydrators to help us prepare. This year was the first time I had such an abundant chile crop that additional preservation options had to be considered. Once the freezers are full – what do you do with all this chile? We made ristras, dried some and canned a whole bunch. The canned green chile was the ticket for transporting and bejeweled jars traveled from my kitchen to my son and daughter-in-law in Roswell and with friends to Japan. The red chile ristras and dehydrated pods are being used for tamales, posole, enchiladas, carne adobada, to flavor carne seca and the more frequent bowl of beans with red. But the dried green chile – chile pasado, is being hoarded (I admit) and being prepared only on very special occasions, like our Christmas Dinner and New Year’s Celebrations. Next summer I am making more – and so should you!
Roast and peel a bushel of chile removing stems and seeds and place on clean, non-stick silicone trays appropriate for your dehydrator. Set timer at 140˚ for 8-10 hours, depending on the thickness of the chile. When cycle ends, remove chile from racks and place in clean, dry flour sacks or ventilated paper bags. Be sure to keep in a dry spot and away from moisture to avoid developing mold.
1 Lb. ground beef or stew meat
2 Tbsps. Olive oil
2 Tbsps. flour
8-10 Dry Green Chile Pods
8-10 pieces sun dried tomatoes
1 cup Red Onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups boiling water
Break or chop chile pods and sundried tomatoes into large pieces (2”) and cover in boiling water, allow to steep undisturbed.
In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, sauté beef and onions in olive oil until onions are transparent, season with salt and pepper and add garlic and flour. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly than add chile and tomatoes in their water. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes and serve with a warm tortilla.
Roasted and peeled chile and tomatoes placed in dehydrator for 8-10 hours. Photo by Liddie Martinez
Roasted, peeled and dried chile and tomatoes after dehydration process. Photo by Liddie Martinez
Roasted, peeled and dried chile and tomatoes broken into smaller pieces. Photo by Liddie Martinez
Editors note: Liddie Martinez is the author of the recently released Chile Line Cookbook: Historic Recipes of Northern New Mexico, which is available online at www.pajaritopress.com.