Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mama C's Green Chile

I had planned on posting this recipe over a month ago. Thank Vegan MoFo for helping me catch up with things I meant to post ages ago and keeping me on track with my posts. Isa at PPK has a growing list of other people participating in Vegan MoFo.

Do I really need to tell you who Isa is? Okay, I might need to tell some of you. She's the author of three books that have taken the vegan cooking (and blogging) world by storm, Vegan with a Vengence (VWAV), Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (VCTOW), and most recently, Veganomicon. She's also the creator and co-host of the cooking show, Post Punk Kitchen, which airs on some PBS stations, and is viewable on Google Video.

Smothered Burritos

When I was a child in Colorado, I played softball in a little league within the Catholic Diocese. I was a Saint. While the team didn't go out together for ice cream or pizza after each game, food was very much a part of the game ritual. After every game, the girls on the team each got a soda, and each family had to put in money for concessions (giant jars of monster pickles, bulk candies and soda, lots of soda), and on a rotating basis, provide refreshments. My memory of the exact details on this are a bit fuzzy, because, frankly I was more concerned with hitting a homer, having a G-DOUBLE-O-D-E-Y-E, and not getting a black eye from that fierce pitcher who hit at least two members of our team with a fast curve every inning she pitched, each time we played her team.... however, I believe that each family was expected to make burritos.

I was not a particularly picky eater as a child, but I did not like spicy food. I just didn't understand why in the world people would eat food that made them uncomfortable--which is funny because as an adult, I've been known to eat wasabi paste like avocado. As a child, I only ever ate burritos when my mother made them, and though it was a rare occasion, she would make an enormous batch when she did. As I recall, her burritos were not especially authentic--I think they consisted of browned ground beef, slices of longhorn colby cheese, refried pinto beans and green chile with pork--but, my oh my, the green chile!

I loved and have longed for my mom's green chile often since I moved away. I didn't know until recently, but many of the dishes I grew up thinking of as Mexican were actually New Mexican, which is probably why it's rare to see chile verde in Texas, except as "green chile pork stew". When I was growing up in CO, green chile was THE chile. If you wanted a bean, tomato and ground beef stew with cumin and spices, you asked for chili con carne. There was even a place called Chubby's that had chile cheese fries, or what I liked to refer to as Heart Attack on a Plate. It seems as though in any other state, that dish would be served with chili con carne, but at Chubby's, it was always green chile, and it was divine.

Obviously, green chile is a very sentimental dish for me. I can't smell roasting green chiles without getting nostalgic for fall in Colorado with the changing of the leaves, the golden aspens, the end of summer vacation and the butterflies associated with the beginning of school. I thought about trying to recreate it off the top of my head, but I was feeling sort of homesick by this time, so I called up my mama and chatted for a while, then asked her how she did it. Not being especially fond of cooking, she never wrote any recipes down, so she'd tell me a few steps, then go back and change everything. It was adorable. And it further cemented my need to make chile right away. My mother told me that she used tomatoes, which didn't sound right at all to me, so I omitted them at first....bad idea. The chile didn't have any tang or zest. The moral? Always listen to your mama.

When I told JD that I wanted to attempt making green chile, he thought I meant a white bean, chicken and green bell pepper stew. Right then, I knew I HAD to make green chile, and I had to make it until it was perfect.

Since this recipe was passed down orally, it's a little bit looser than most of my recipes, but that just gives you more freedom. If you're a mild kind of person who doesn't want to make a big batch, only add 1 or 2 jalapenos, and 2 quarts of water. If you like things face meltingly hot, and think the more the merrier when it comes to leftovers, add 6 or more hot peppers--hell, throw in a habanero or scotch bonnet!--and use 4 quarts of water. The original recipe, of course, used pork, and I use seitan, but you could omit that and use a different thickener if you're opposed to seitan, wheat intolerant or celiac.

Mama C's Chile Verde/Green Chile
by Christina Terriquez

8-10 mild green chili peppers like mild hatch, poblano, or, my favorite, anaheim, washed and dried and whole
3-6 medium or hot chili peppers like serrano, or jalapeno, washed and dried and whole
olive or safflower oil
5 stewed or fresh tomatoes, skins peeled and discarded and flesh minced
1/2-1 yellow or white onion, diced
2-4 cloves of garlic
2-4 quarts of water (1 quart is 4 cups)
sea salt
1 lb seitan or 1 batch Easy Wheat Gluten
organic white unbleached flour

Roast peppers over flame until skin is black and blistered, being careful not to puncture skin as juices will leak. Set blackened peppers aside or in brown paper bag to cool. Repeat until all peppers are roasted.

Using plastic gloves, under cool running water, peel the skin away from the peppers, de-stem and de-seed. Dice pepper flesh.

In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of oil and sauté onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt, until onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Remove from heat.

In a stockpot or large dutch oven, add onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes. Simmer for at least 1 hour.

Cut half of seitan into 1/2 inch chunks, and add to stockpot. Cut remaining seitan into pea-sized pieces, and brown in skillet with oil. Set aside for garnishing just before serving.

Dilute 2 tablespoons of flour in 1/4 cut of water and slowly stir into chile. Season chile with sea salt. If chile looks thick enough for your liking, serve. If chile seems a little watery, dilute flour 1 tablespoon at a time, and add to chile. Keep in mind that chile will thicken as it cools.

Chile is great as a sauce for smothering burritos, making green enchiladas, or pouring over scrambled tofu or tofu omlets for a sort of "huevos rancheros" dish.

We often eat it room temperature with chips.

It's very important to use gloves when peeling hot chili peppers, as the essence stays on your fingertips for a long time and burns sensitive skin and mucous membranes. I've known many a person who didn't wear gloves when seeding peppers, then (after washing their hands) went to the bathroom or touched their eye, with stinging consequences.

Flour is what my mother always used, but you can use a different thickener. My favorite thickener is kuzu powder.

Tomatillos may be use in place of tomatoes for a greener chile verde.

In one of the last big meals R, JD and I ate together, we had smothered burritos filled with Monterey Jack Follow Your Heart NotCheese , refried pinto beans and green chile, covered with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, more NotCheese and more green chile, plus Spanish rice and zucchini ribbons sautéed with olive oil and garlic. We each had one flour tortilla burrito and one sprouted grain (or maybe sprouted corn?) tortilla burrito. Pretty simple, but sooooo good! Interestingly, although I loved green chile in burritos as a child, I could not stand smothered burritos as they always seemed like a soggy, hard-to-eat mess. Either I'm less sensitive as an adult, or the vegan tortillas are more impervious to the vegan chile than lard-laden tortillas are to conventional green chile.

Burritos smothered in Mama C's Green Chile

With some leftover chile, we had tofu omelets filled with mushrooms and covered in green chile, with a little NotCheese for garnish. The green chile is not pretty, but it IS delicious! JD is not really a fan of tofu, and we don't eat it much, but if there's chile in the house, he'll scarf down two smothered tofu omelets in no time. I don't do nightshades very often, but when I do, I do them right.

Tofu omelet with mushrooms, and Mama C's Green Chile


aTxVegn said...

I think your green chili is very pretty. I will certainly try out this recipe. I wish I had frozen some of the Hatch chilies while they were here!

bazu said...

Hey, good to see you posting again! Ooooh, and this recipe looks excellent.

Anonymous said...

I came across your site while searching for pork green chile in Austin. I relocated here from Denver, CO, home of Chubby's, where I was a regular customer for many years. So far I haven't found anything in Texas to compare to the green chile in Colorado. While I love everything about Austin, I really miss the green chile. Thanks for the recipe. I'm anxious to try it.

margarito said...
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