Hatch Green Chile and Swiss Cheese. Yum.

For me, there is something magically delicious about putting New Mexican chile together with Swiss cheese. Not just somewhere in the same dish or recipe, but right on top of each other.

Quick examples would include a burger with a slice of Swiss cheese top and and chopped green Hatch chili on top of the cheese. Or an omelet with melting Swiss cheese and chopped green chile as a hat.

Another unlikely but tasty combination is fresh pineapple and New Mexico green chile. In some parts of the Southwest U.S. pizza parlors (does anyone call them that any more?) or the pizza delivery chains offer up a pineapple and green chile pie on their menus.

If your part of the world doesn’t include green chile on the pizza menus you can always have a couple of 4 oz cans of chopped green New Mexican chile ready when the pizza arrives and throw it on while it’s still hot. Try it, you might like it.

Caldillo-Slow Cooked Green Chile Goodness

We were painting the utility closet where my Crock pot lives and moving it got me thinking about caldillo. It is a stew of sorts but with the flavors kicked way up through the use of New Mexico green chile and other Southwest seasonings.

I like to use a Crockpot so that the stew meat comes out fork tender. And this recipe from my wife’s side of the family has a surprise ingredient.

We always throw a cup of black coffee into the caldillo. Yup, a cup of coffee.

Into a Crockpot or slow cooker, add the following:

1 and 1/2 lbs of beef or pork stew meat cut into bite sized pieces
2 4 oz cans of chopped green chile, preferably Hatch
1 whole fresh jalape�o
1 medium white or yellow onion chopped
2-3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 14.5 oz can of diced stewed tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of black coffee, left over from breakfast is fine.

 
Get everything in the Crockpot and add enough water to cover ingredients. Add more jalapenos or a couple of Serrano peppers if you like your caldillo hotter. Cook on high 4to 5 hours until potatoes are tender. 8-10 hours on low.

Serve in bowls with warm tortillas on the side.

Jalapenos as Instruments of Punishment

In 1967 when The Beatles were tripping in “Strawberry Fields Forever” and The Doors were urging us to “Light My Fire” I was a “new cadet” at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell.

In that day “new cadets” at N.M.M.I. were under a hazing system similar to Plebes at
West Point. We had our heads shaved, doubled timed in The Area, yes sir/no sir, saluted, kept eyes straight ahead as not to engage humans, which we were considered not to be by “old cadets”, dropped for push-ups, walked “tours” or ran laps for the slightest perceived infractions of behavior or “deportment.” It was a real slice of heaven for a 15 year old from California.

The fun continued at meal time when we “new cadets” perched ourselves on the front
few inches of our chair, sitting at attention with eyes forward, yet expected to serve and
cater to the whims of the “old cadets” scattered among us, members of our squad or
platoon.

Punishment for not doing so took various forms. Hispanic New Mexico “old cadets” often brought jars of jalapenos to the table. Forcing some hapless table pepper avoiding “new cadet” from, say, Wisconsin, to munch up a jalapeno pepper as punishment for some infraction was considered great entertainment and a fair warning for other “new cadets.” Adult supervision looked the other way.

I don’t totally hate the three and a half years I spent at New Mexico Military Institute. I learned to lead other young cadets through humor and cajoling as opposed to acting like some junior psychotic schmuck. The school had a very strong academic program. It directly and indirectly led to a Journalism degree from New Mexico State University and a broadcasting career, my wife of 34 years, and several life long friendships.

These days I enjoy jalapenos, serranos, New Mexico green chile, and the occasional
habanero, among other fiery foods. But I still think that tricking or forcing the unsuspecting or uninitiated to bite into such things is not cool.

A Big Chile Shoutout to Bird Poop

If you like smothering the top of a burger with New Mexico green chile or maybe jalapenos you have a very odd thing to thank for your pleasure: bird poop.

Botanists have determined that all chile varieties originated in South America and more specifically, the lowlands of Brazil. That region is home to the most varieties of wild chile, a small fruit about the size of a large berry. Here is where the birds come in.
Birds don’t feel the heat of the chile and the seeds pass through their digestive tracts unharmed. Birds would feed on ripe chile and then fly off, say to the edge of their range, poop and thus give birth to a new chile plant.

Repeat that process over centuries and before you know it you’ve got chile plants inCentral America and Southern Mexico. The Mayans and Aztecs are using chile in their diet and for medicinal purposes. The Carib’s take it with them as they spread out to the, um, Caribbean Islands and the West Indies.

Then along comes Christopher Columbus who takes chile back to Spain. From there it quickly spread along the Mediterranean region into the Far East.

Columbus is also responsible for tagging the word “pepper” onto chile as he mistakenly thought it was from the same family as black pepper or “pimiento.”

How chile got to New Mexico is a matter of debate. Some scientists think it was trade between the native Pueblos and the Toltec Indians of Mexico and others think Spanish explorers brought chile with them out of Mexico.

I’m just glad it did. Join me as I hoist an adult beverage skyward and shout “Here’s to bird poop!”

(Sources include the Chile Pepper Institute, Cambridge History of World Food, and Wikipedia.org)

Chile Beef Cake

Here’s a recipe that is dirt simple yet has plenty of New Mexico green chile goodness. You’ll need a large skillet (10-12 inch variety) and the following ingredients..

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 can 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
2 cans 4 oz of chopped green chile preferably Hatch
1 and 1/2 cups of cooked rice
1 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese

Cook beef and onion in the skillet over medium heat until beef is brown and crumbled.Drain and return to skillet. Stir in all other ingredients except the cheese and cook until everything is heated through. Transfer to plates and sprinkle the cheese on top.