Green chile chicken
Last week I attempted in vain to present my recipe for green chile chicken. But I was unable to move the discussion past the dish’s main ingredient: green chile, that fragrant, smoky soul breath of New Mexico.
I was going to explain how to make a very special green chile stew, and how a variation of that stew can be stuffed into a chicken and baked. But instead I fell so deep into the history and culture of New Mexico green chile that it was all I could do to describe how to roast it at home before I ran out of space. Today I’ll assume you know about green chile and skip straight to the stew. Then I’ll tell you how to shove it up a chicken’s butt, bake it, and love it.
A good green chile stew is a poem in a bowl, a New Mexican ballad whose hot winds, heavy with the scent of green chile, fan the smoldering fragrance of garlic, dry the dusty potatoes, and drive the cold, tomato-splitting rain. Typically served with a folded flour tortilla tucked between saucer and bowl, green chile stew will make you sweat, cry, cough, and clap your hands like desert thunder.
It’s a simple dish, little more than potato, tomato, onion, garlic, meat, and roasted green chile. There are, of course, variations. Some cooks add olives. Or carrots. Or even red chile. Some serve their stew with a sopapilla instead of a tortilla.
First you brown the meat — typically pork, but any will do. Then, for each pound of meat add one onion and two tomatoes, chopped, and a few minced cloves of garlic. After it cooks together – about ten minutes – add two cubed potatoes and enough stock to cover it all, and simmer until the potatoes are done. Season with salt and garlic powder, add 10-20 chopped green chiles, cook another two minutes, and serve.
Despite being a hearty, chunky affair, very few incarnations of green chile stew are thick enough to actually stuff into a chicken. So I’ve adapted the stew into a low-water, oven-roasted product that works great as a stuffing and absorbs juices from the surrounding chicken.
This is a great wintertime dish, but I’m giving you the recipe in the height of summer to get you hooked. Hopefully you’ll consider putting away a stash of green chile so you can make this dish all year round. If so, now is the time to assemble that stash.
Green chile, as discussed last week, is typically frozen after roasting. If you live where you can acquire freshly roasted green chile by the sack, that’s a lot easier than spending all day roasting chiles on the grill or in the oven. I usually drive to Hatch, NM, and buy 5 bushel sacks of fresh chile, which I have roasted on the spot. Then I drive my green chile home to Albuquerque, where I pack it into quart-sized freezer bags and freeze it for year-round use.
Most of the other ingredients — for stew and chicken both — are crops you can grow in your garden and keep until spring. Potatoes, garlic, and onions store themselves, given a cool space. Tomatoes may be frozen, canned, or dried, and most any unadulterated form of preserved tomato will do. I use sundried tomatoes.
The quantities suggested in this green chile chicken recipe will create about twice as much stuffing as will fit into a 4 lb. bird. You can place the extra stuffing around and beneath the chicken.
- Four medium potatoes
- two tomatoes (in my case, two tomatoes’ worth of sundried slices)
- one head of garlic, chopped
- one good-sized onion, chopped
- at least 20 roasted green chiles
- a quarter-cup of mixed pine nuts and pecans
- two carrots
The carrots and nuts are not typically found in the stew, but I like them in the stuffing. Also, you will need a chicken, obviously. And the following ingredients are optional:
- oregano and sage (to sprinkle on top of the chicken)
- tortillas and a big summer squash sliced into
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