Some of you may be asking why it took me so long to get to this dish; maybe it should have been where this column began but, like any good marriage, it takes time to get to the real deal.
You don’t break out the diamond on the first date. Green chile stew is the diamond recipe for every northern New Mexican cook; there are a million variations, all as beloved, rare and flawless as the next one but singular in its existence. It’s your Mom’s or Grandma’s or Tia’s expression of pure love when the leaves turn golden or you have a cold or sore throat and she is clamoring in the kitchen muttering sana, sana, colita de rana (heal, heal, little frog’s tail – this is the beginning to an ancient healing spell that is said before you kiss a child’s skinned knee – over the chile pot to put all the magic she has into knocking that bug out of existence.
I can still see myself tucked into bed with the aroma of sautéing garlic and onions wafting from the kitchen combating the smell of Vick’s Vapor Rub applied in globs around my neck with raw potato slices on my forehead and feet to draw out the fever. I smile now when I think of that scene; Grandma was a miracle worker and Green Chile stew was her cure for cough and cold.
We all know that green chile has an abundance of vitamin c and provides protein and potassium but most impressive, green chile helps the body block cholesterol absorption and increases your metabolism. Eat more green chile- it’s good for you!
Green Chile has been produced and consumed in New Mexico for hundreds of years and likely came to northern New Mexico via the Native American Trade Routes established centuries ago prior to El Camino Real. And, like the three sisters (beans, squash and corn), chile, both red and green, became staple crops in New Mexico long before we were a state or even part of the United States for that matter. The recipes for Green Chile Stew will all ring familiar, but I can tell you from personal experience, no two versions are identical, even when cooked in your own kitchen.
The beauty of this dish is that you use whatever is on hand. So long as you have green chile, green chile stew is an option regardless of the contents of your refrigerator or pantry. I’ve had it with fresh spinach leaves added at the end and with corn or carrots or potatoes mixed together or as single additions – all very different and all delicious.
For my family the base is called Chile Verde Guisado, the basic green chile recipe I use for many dishes that is then embellished with whatever vegetables are available that moment and a good stock. My family’s favorite is featured today – enjoy a bowl. Nobody has to be sick to make it.
In a large dutch oven sauté beef or chicken, onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil over medium-high heat until onions are transparent. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes then add stock, chile, tomatoes, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add corn and zucchini, stir and add about a cup or so of water. Bring to a boil then turn off pot and let 10 – 15 minutes before serving. Makes 8 hearty servings.