Hatch chile peppers are ubiquitous in New Mexico. This unique variety of green chile is an important ingredient in the spicy stews for which the region is known. However, Hatch chiles aren’t always easy to find. As always, America’s Test Kitchen found a delicious work-around. ATK’s Tucker Shaw talks with managing producer Sally Swift about a satisfying Colorado Green Chili recipe that uses two more readily available peppers as a stand-in for Hatch chiles.
Sally Swift: I want to talk about chili – as in, the soup or the stew. That word means different things in different parts of the country. You came up with a Colorado Green Chili recipe that I am interested in because it's based on those beautiful chiles that you only find in New Mexico in the fall. Tell me about this recipe.
TS: It's true. This is an unusual chili in the pantheon of chilis in that it's not very chunky, there are no beans in it, and it doesn't have ground meat. It has a strong and beautiful flavor of the green chiles that grow in New Mexico and southern Colorado. Having lived in Colorado for many years, it's something that I find rewarding to even think about, let alone eat.
SS: It's those mysterious Hatch chiles that only grow in that soil. These are the chiles that, if you are lucky enough to be in New Mexico in the fall, you smell being roasted. It is absolutely intoxicating.
TS: There is a beautiful cloud of roast-y aroma floating over that whole stretch from Denver all the way down to El Paso and into Mexico. We’re talking about 600-700 miles of green chile country. As you say, it’s intoxicating, mesmerizing and wonderful.
Left: Chile field near Hatch, New Mexico. (Photo: duckycards/E+/Getty Images)
Right: A basket of freshly picked Hatch chile peppers. (Photo: rdparis22/iStock/Getty Images)
SS: Talk to me about the recipe. How are you duplicating the essence of that chili?
TS: Unfortunately, duplication is not possible because it is too difficult to get the proper green chiles in other parts of the country. What we had to do was to create a stand-in; it’s a stew inspired by the proper green chili. We chose Anaheim chiles for this recipe. They are an offshoot of the proper green chile, developed in the early 20th century from New Mexico chiles. They're a bit more mild, so we had to bolster our stew with a few jalapeños for an extra hit of spice.
Tucker Shaw (Photo: America's Test Kitchen)
SS: That was very smart of you. How does the chili come together?
TS: We chose to go for a very meaty chili because we wanted ours to be a meal, not just a drizzle or a condiment. We start with three pounds of pork shoulder; that’s a common meat that you will find in this chili. Chop that up to bite-sized chunks and start to brown it in a Dutch oven. Put that on the back burner to start cooking.
Meanwhile, take about two pounds of Anaheim chiles, slice them down the middle and remove the seeds. Roast them in the oven alongside three jalapeños that you've done the same with. You're going to roast them for about 20 minutes; this will get the skins blistered and a bit charred. Once they've finished roasting, cool them down and remove the skins.
Your next step is to chop about half of those Anaheim chiles into big chunks; put them aside. Put the other half into a food processor with diced tomatoes. Give those a blitz. This will help distribute the chile flavor throughout the stew, but also leave behind some chunks, so you can get a nice mouthful of chile here and there as well.
Once you've chopped half the chiles and pureed the other half – and once your pork shoulder is brown –toss in some aromatics: onion, garlic, the basics. Then add a bit of flour, which will thicken your stew just enough. You don't want it too thick; this is a fairly thin stew, but it has a great deal of flavor. Nonetheless, you do need to have a bit of body to the stew. Into the pot go the chiles and chicken stock. Scrape up the foam that's developed on the bottom of your Dutch oven from the pork, bring it to a simmer, and slip it into a low oven for about an hour – maybe a few minutes more. The reason we do this in an oven is because we're trying to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pot.
The America's Test Kitchen recipe for Colorado Green Chili substitutes Anaheim and jalapeño peppers for the classic Hatch green chile. Hatch chiles are roasted before being cooked in chili dishes. (Photos: America's Test Kitchen, LICreate/iStock/Getty Images)
SS: Sounds simple and smart.
TS: At this point, your kitchen is filled with an aroma that makes you feel like you're on the best vacation ever. Just thinking about this brings a smile to my face. I lived for many years in Colorado. Each autumn, this aroma, which is ubiquitous throughout that whole part of the country, is just the best. Once it’s finished simmering in your oven, you're just about ready to eat. Roughly chop those jalapeños that you roasted in the oven and toss them in. This gives one final jolt of spice that wakes the whole thing up. It's a remarkable stew because it has so much depth of flavor, but also has vigorous spice.
SS: It sounds something that can be made ahead and will be better the longer it waits for you. It also sounds like perfect fall cooking, particularly with peppers in the market, right?
TS: I totally agree; you can make it ahead. I happen to like this stuff especially on snowy days. If you find yourself making it, stick some in the freezer and save it for the first snowfall of the year. Nothing reminds me of Colorado more than a snowy day with delicious green chili.
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.