Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Mexico's Green Chile Gravy (or Green Chile Sauce)

Forgive the long post, but today's post for Vegan Month of Gravy travels to one of my VERY favorite parts of the country, to bring you one of New Mexico's signature dishes; Green Chile Sauce, also called Green Chile Gravy, (especially by the state's "old-time" residents), as it is essentially a "gravy" with green chiles added.

If you've been fortunate enough to visit, or live, anywhere near the spectacular "Land of Enchantment", you'll have discovered that this delicious gravy-sauce and it's counterpart, Red Chile Sauce, are EVERYWHERE, even McDonald's sells green chile burgers!

But to make it right, you'll need real, genuine New Mexico green chiles. If you can't locate them locally (and few of us can) New Mexico's famous chiles are worth the trip: The fat, green chiles (sometimes called "Hatch chiles") have a distinct, fruity, rich flavor, with a fleeting but powerful heat. They've been compared to Anaheim chiles, but I tend to think there's no comparison.

During chile season, the peppers are roasted outdoors over fire in big, rotating, round wire drums. You can smell chile smoke as they char, and hear the seeds and skins popping from blocks away. Totally an experience!! When it's time to use them, the skins are peeled off and the soft chiles are chopped and cooked in whatever recipe.
The red chile is actually the same pepper, but picked later in the season so it is red (ripe), it's not roasted, but dried, ground into powder and blended with liquid to make the earthy, spicy, red chile sauce.

Chile peppers are the state's largest agricultural crop; consumed at practically every meal, celebrated in songs and at festivals, and the subject of the Official New Mexico State Question, "Red or green". The question refers to the color of chile you want on your food and you'll get asked at every Mexican (or New Mexican, sorry!!) restaurant.

So, I think the reason the rest of us know so little about New Mexico's green chiles is because they don't transport so well. They're a fragile seasonal vegetable, (well, yes, technically a fruit) and the only way to really appreciate them is freshly fire-roasted; (though the fire-roasted,frozen variety are pretty close if that's your second choice). Tasteless, acidic, canned, slimy green chiles are not an option here.

So exciting! This past summer, our "local" (Seattle) Whole Foods brought in some Hatch chiles and an authentic roaster and I had fresh-roasted green chiles without traveling half-way across the country to get my "fix". Most larger grocery stores stock the frozen tubs of "Bueno Foods" brand frozen roasted chiles though, they'll work nicely for this sauce; but for me, there's just something magical about buying a package of smoky-hot freshly-roasted chiles early in the morning at the Farmer's Market in Santa Fe...

I tend to LOVE anything New Mexico, can you tell? This gravy-sauce (which isn't a bright cilantro-jalapeno green, but more tannish-green, by the way) is absolutely heavenly, and perfect over enchiladas, tamales, chile rellanos, burritos, potatoes or grits especially.

New Mexico's Famous Green Chile Gravy

3 tablespoons oil or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup onion , chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
2 cups roasted, peeled/seeded/chopped New Mexican green chile peppers
3 cups vegetarian chicken-flavor broth
1 teaspoon salt
(optional: a pinch of oregano and/or a pinch of cumin can be added if you prefer a bit more spice, personally I like mine plain.)

In heavy-bottomed sauce pan, saute onions in oil, stirring every now and then, over medium heat, until they begin to brown. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes but do NOT let garlic brown.
Stir flour in with onion mixture. Stir a bit and let flour "cook" for a few minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in broth.
Add green chilies, salt (if needed) and oregano and cumin (if using) and mix well.
Bring to a boil, lower heat but keep at a simmer, stirring with wire whisk frequently, 20 to 30 minutes, to allow mixture to reduce.
The sauce should be like a medium-to-thin gravy and bind chilies and onions together.
Store in refrigerator up to a week if you can resist drinking it straight from the pan.


Mama said...

YAY! Not only will I be trying this, I will be recommending it to all my friends looking for a green enchilada sauce. I see some enchiladas in my very near future. Thank you.:)

Amey said...

wow, what glorious post, and what an amazing recipe. thanks so much for sharing. It sounds totally right up my alley!!!

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

Thanks guys! So glad you like it - it's one of my all time favorite!

Tofu Hunter said...

I'm loving the month of gravy! A good sauce can make a meal. Thanks for all the great posts!

Karyn said...

I froze a ton of Hatch green chilies again this year. You are right, its hard not to drink green chile sauce right out of the pan.

I think its is a food group.

Mama said...

I made this tonight, and I had to make a few modifications due to what we had on hand. It was really good none the less. I look forward to following the recipe more closely when we have some fresh tomatoes. Thanks so much.