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Confessions of a Chile Addict: I Weaned My Babies onto Salsa!!

Here’s the truth: My children were weaned right from the breast onto green chile. They’d sit in their cute little high chairs, point at the bowl of salsa on the table and grunt, “Unh, unh!” And anyone with half a brain knows “unh, unh” means “want something.”

So around 18 months, I figured it was time. The rest of the family dipped. Why shouldn’t they?

Besides, I thought it was great for hand-eye coordination.

And I never had to worry about them choking on corn chips. The second the salsa hit their lips they’d start to hyperventilate.  “HOT! HOT! HOT!” they’d pant, and reach immediately for a little tippy cup filled with water.

Yes, sometimes they cried.

But we were always sympathetic. “Yes, sweetheart, it is HOT CHILE! No one is making you eat it!”

However, being true to their roots, they’d go at it again, fully determined as they pointed – “unh, unh, unh!” – at the salsa, as if to say, “YOU FOOL! I WANT MORE!”

Every fall we packed the kids up for our annual pilgrimage to the chile vendor. They’d watch from a distance, eyes tearing as the chilies popped and crackled in the propane-fired roasting barrel. Such fun!

Then we’d drive home with our booty in the back of the station wagon, the aroma of roasted chile filling our lungs, making us cough, and clinging to our hair and jackets.

To me, New Mexico will always be chile heaven.  From mid-August through September, the smell permeates the air. It’s synonymous with the season – like evergreens at Christmas.

Over time, I discovered that I enjoy roasting my own, rather than having the vendor do it. Mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment.

In the past we roasted chile over an open flame on the barbecue, but now I just use the oven broiler. Some people wear gloves, and one of these days I might try it.  Just remember not to touch the eyes or sinuses.

What do you do with the stuff? Be creative. We make green chile omelets, salsa, enchiladas, chile rellenos, chile corn bread, burritos. Even green chile apple pie. And at Thanksgiving, there’s nothing tastier than a turkey sandwich with green chile.

If the idea of roasting and peeling fresh chile sounds a bit daunting, the satisfaction of having a stash in the freezer makes the effort worthwhile. Imagine serving up bowls of steaming green chile stew during the holidays.

Once I made green chile chocolate fudge following the fudge recipe on Kraft Marshmallow Creme. I just mixed in a couple of finely-diced roasted chile peppers at the end. Sooo good.

My husband is a big fan of green chile cheese burgers. In fact, I’ve noticed that our car has a tendency to veer into Blake’s Lot-a-Burgers, where these loaded concoctions are an institution – and definitely not considered fast food.

So – bottom-line: if  you can get your hands on even a pound or two of  fresh green chile, give it a try.

Here’s how I do it: First, I wash the chile pods, working in small batches. (In case you can’t roast them all at once, it’s best to keep the remainder dry.)

Next, fire up the broiler or barbecue. Arrange a batch of chile peppers on the grill (or an old cookie sheet if using the broiler). Roast until browned and blistered, then turn and brown the other side. Watch so they don’t burn to a crisp.

When they come out of the oven, I wrap the hot pods in a damp dish towel, so the skins steam and loosen while they cool.

Then I peel the skins and try to keep the chile flesh intact. You can remove the vein and seeds, which can be very hot. This year my chile has just the right bite.

Here’s a little trick I learned. I used to just pack the peeled chile into freezer bags. Usually pint-sized. But when I wanted just a small amount later, I had to either defrost the whole bag or chisel some out with a knife.

Now, after I peel them, I lay them out on a clean cookie sheet and pop them into the freezer for about 20 minutes, just to firm them up. This way, when I put them in a freezer bags, they stay separated instead of mushing all together. Because they retain their shape, this seems to require quart-sized bags.

Peeled  chilies, ready to firm in the freezer.
Then it’s back to the stove or grill. It helps to have a partner to keep the assembly line going.

The basic green chile sauce demonstrated in this YouTube video is one I’ve been making for years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg3wj__vqb4&feature=related

What’s so special about green chile cheese burgers? Watch this video and find out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3DeyrD02eo&feature=related.

Follow the green chile cheese burger trail in New Mexico by going to www.newmexico.org/greenchilecheeseburger.

Happy eating. And by the way, should you take a bite of a hot one, milk works better than water to calm the burn. And whatever you do, don’t brush your teeth. FFG

 

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