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We came home several weeks ago to our landlord removing the blistered skin from 28 pounds of New Mexico hatch chiles at the picnic table behind the building. She used to live in New Mexico, and told us that green chile season was short and prized there. She, like many other New Mexico expatriates and chile fanatics, troll the internet and pester the Raley’s groceries where they are known to appear, for weeks ahead of the late August/early September arrival. The stores sell the chiles fresh, or after they have roasted them in enormous drums. In New Mexico, friends gather to roast and peel dozens and hundreds of pounds of chiles during harvest season, to freeze, preserve, and use all year. Our landlord did 28 pounds, by herself, in our backyard, no problem.

autumn sutro

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And then, she gave us about a pound of her bounty, which I dutifully froze within 24 hours, as she instructed, for future use when I was really ready.

It took me weeks to decide how to make chile verde with my chiles. There are hundreds of recipes for chile verde floating around, yet few seem definitive. Many use tomatillos for the green color, while others use peppers. None of the pepper-based ones I found struck my fancy, so I made one up. I used a combination of this Chowhound commenter’s methods with Emeril’s Food Network recipe ratios (approximately 1 part pork to 1 part chiles). The result may not have been exactly what you would get at Green Chile Kitchen, but it was fabulous enough to write down.

I added a few tomatillos for their sour flavor and acidity. You could also make this using all poblanos, or some combination of those with other chiles, like California or pasilla peppers, that you may be able to find at your local Mexican grocery. Of course, you could always email Raley’s next September to find out when they’re roasting their chiles again, or mail order some straight from the source.
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Chile Verde with New Mexico hatch chiles, pork, and potatoes

I mostly made this up, based on recommended techniques and ingredients from around the Internet. A classically trained French chef would probably do something more elegant with the flour + cornstarch thickening combination, based on one of the mother sauces, but the way I’ve described it here worked for me.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound roasted, skinned New Mexico hatch chiles or other New Mexico green chiles
  • 1 pound poblano peppers, charred and skinned
  • 2-3 tomatillos (about 1 pound), husks removed, roasted and skinned
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, or other fatty cut of pork
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (about 6 small red potatoes), cubed
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 3 cups water or chicken broth (add an extra tsp. or two of salt if you use water)
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Instructions

1. Trim fat from pork, and cut into cubes (3/4 in. will do). Season with salt and pepper.

2. Brown the pork: Heat oil in dutch oven, or other heavy-bottomed pot. When it shimmers, add the pork cubes and brown on at least two sides, 5-7 minutes per side. It helps to do this in batches, so that you’re only browning as much pork as can line the bottom of the pot. You don’t want to be stacking the pork in multiple layers, or it could end up gray, not brown (ick). Remove pork from the pot.

3. Turn down heat and add onions and garlic to oil (you may want or need to drain off some of the pork fat here, depending on how into extra fat you are). Saute until onions are translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add herbs and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook for two more minutes, stirring. Add flour and stir again. Finally, add the peppers and tomatillos and saute for 2 minutes more.

4. Add the water and browned pork and cover pot with lid. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes.

5. Add the cubed potatoes, and continue simmering for another 30-45 minutes, depending on your patience and level of hunger. Add cornstarch if needed for extra thickening.

6. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro. Taste, and add more salt if needed. By this time, the pork should be tender and pull apart easily, and the potatoes almost falling apart.

7. Serve garnished with cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, and warm corn tortillas.

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The sun is setting before 7pm now, casting golden glows of Indian Summer over the fogless Twin Peaks. The past few weeks at the market and in the kitchen I’ve been desperately hanging on to the last fruits of summer: sweet corn, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and the final peaches and nectarines, no longer quite as sweet, and quickly molding in the warm, early autumn air that stuffs our kitchen. All of this adds up to more vegetable matter than we can reasonably eat in fresh form.

heirloom tomatoes

corn cob, pulped

It also means that in addition to fried and cheesed zucchini, we’ve eaten a lot of corn soup this summer. Or corn chowder, I suppose. See, it’s unclear what really distinguishes a chowder from a soup, especially when it comes to corn. I put cream or milk in other soups, but don’t call them chowders, and many corn chowder recipes seem not to call for the thickener that Wikipedia tells me is the mark of a chowder. What’s more confusing, Epicurious defines a chowder as “any thick, rich soup containing chunks of food,” but no one seems to have a recipe for any chowder other than corn or seafood.

corn chowder, variation 2

Corn chowder

I discovered this version of corn chowder last summer, when I picked up my cousin’s CSA box in the waning August light and found bounty of fingerling potatoes, fresh sweet corn, ripe heirloom tomatoes, and a bunch of basil.  What to do with all of this? Google, of course. Which led me to this New York Times recipe for corn chowder.

corn chowder with tomato, basil and lime

The original Times recipe called for much more corn than I had, and cherry tomatoes, not heirlooms. I’m sure it’s delicious their way as well. I’ve adapted it to fit a smaller amount of corn, different tomatoes, and to be a bit less fussy in ingredients. I’ve also made variations on this with a half-cup of cream and blending the soup base before adding half the corn, while leaving out the lime juice and basil, or adding an extra cup of zucchini to the mix, from all that surplus zucchini we had earlier in the summer. Corn soup is endlessly adaptable, but this is always my go-to flavor combination.

ingredients

  • 4 ears corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 cups water or broth (I use water with some extra salt to taste, but you can use broth if you prefer)
  • 1 pound waxy potatoes (red or Yukon Gold or fingerling are good), cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Crème fraîche or sour cream, for serving (optional).

instructions

1. Cut the corn off the cobs (Simply Recipes details a clever way to do this using a bundt pan). Squeeze the pulp out of the remaining cobs by running  the back of your knife along the cob.

2. Heat the butter (or olive oil for vegans) in a heavy saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, and saute until translucent. Add garlic after several minutes, being careful not to burn it. Add the potatoes, and saute for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add water and reserved corn cobs to pot, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, and leave for 15 minutes or so.

4. Add tomatoes and corn, and at this point, check to see if you’ll need more salt, and adjust accordingly. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Remove and discard cobs, and test for salt again. Turn off the heat, and add the basil and lime juice. Let soup cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with creme fraiche or sour cream.

variation

Add 1 cup shredded zucchini when you add the potatoes in the saute phase. Reserve half the corn kernels when adding corn to mixture. After removing the cobs and turning off the heat, and before adding basil and lime juice, puree the  mixture. I use a stick blender for this step, but if you don’t have one, carefully transfer the hot soup to a normal blender and do it there, then transfer back to the pot. Turn heat back on to low, and add 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half and the remaining corn kernels, and basil and lime juice. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then serve garnished with basil (leave out the sour cream on this one).

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