Tag Archives: Monterey jack cheese

WHITE CHILI

Too late for the Super Bowl, but not too late for a cold winter night. White Chili has some similarities with a bowl of Texas Red, but it is more like a cousin to green chile chicken stew and chicken posole. They all use some of the same ingredients with the main difference being the use of beans, potatoes, or hominy. Susan and I first had a bowl of white chili many years ago in Santa Barbara, California, when we were attending a conference. We both thought it was delicious, but couldn’t figure out how to make it. Some time later, I found a recipe in a magazine. Over the years, I have made modifications to that magazine recipe, and this version comes from our family cookbook, Let’s Cook! Let’s Eat!

RECIPE

White Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry great northern beans
  • boneless chicken breast + 2 chicken thighs
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 7 ounce can diced green chiles (mild, medium, or hot according to your preference)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 cup grated Monterey jack cheese + more for garnish
  • salt and pepper
  • sour cream (for garnish)
  • salsa (for garnish)
  • chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)

Method

  1. Soak beans overnight.
  2. Boil the chicken in the chicken stock for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Drain and reserve the chicken stock. Cool the chicken and shred into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  3. In a heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil, and then sauté the onions until translucent. Stir in the chiles, garlic, cumin, oregano, cloves, and cayenne. Sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Add drained beans and chicken stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce to the simmer for 2 hours or until the beans are cooked through.
  5. When the beans are done, add the chicken and grated cheese, stirring until the cheese melts.
  6. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve in individual bowls with the additional cheese, sour cream, salsa, and cilantro as garnish.
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GREEN CHILE CHEESEBURGER – MY TAKE

The journey begins at home, they say, so after writing about my search for the perfect green chile cheeseburger, it only seemed fair that I write about my version. It is based on my observations over the years. It is what I like, so I make no claims for its being in the “best” category, and I certainly would not think of entering it in any contest. I will leave that to the pros.

The first essential is roasted green chiles. You can buy them canned or frozen, but in New Mexico this is green chile season, so there are roasters at the farmers market, and farmers from Hatch and Chimayo (Hatch’s chief competitor) bring gunny sacks filled with green chiles along with roasting cages and butane burners to parking lots all over the city. They will roast as many as you want, and then it is up to you to peel them, cook with them, and put them up for the winter ahead.

Alternatively, you can roast the few that you need for a recipe at home. There are lots of ways to do that: you can roast them under the broiler in your oven; you can use your outdoor grill. The problem with that is that the wonderful roasting smell will draw neighbors and even strangers to your back yard; you can roast chiles over a gas flame; but my favorite way is to use a chile roasting grill that I purchased years ago at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. I like it so much that I have given many of them to friends on my gift list.

The second essential is to have a tasty melting cheese. Asadero is my favorite, but mozzarella, Monterey jack, cheddar, Emmental, or even Gruyère will also work. The important thing is to make sure that whatever cheese you use, the finished product is as gooey as you can make it.

The third essential is the bun, You should use the very best quality bun you can find. Kaiser rolls are good. Hamburger buns in the cello wraps are not good, but if that is all you can find, it will have to do.

Finally, of course, the most essential ingredient is the meat. I use ground beef with 93% lean, but whatever your favorite might be – from 85% to ground sirloin –  will work. You should plan on anywhere from 4 to 8 ounces of meat per burger. I do a couple of things that are considered heretical. First, I incorporate seasoning – salt, pepper, red pepper if you wish – into the meat. With burgers that big, I don’t think salt or pepper can find their way into the middle and the finished burger tastes bland. Second, that means you will have to mix the meat lightly before you shape the burgers. Just try hard not to compress the meat too much. Third, frying the burger in a cast-iron pan or on a flat grill yields a texture that is tastier to me than from a grill

One tool that helps a lot, especially if you make half-pound burgers, is an instant-read probe thermometer. It will take 7-10 minutes or longer on each side to get the right doneness, and the old thumb-pressure trick may not work as well as you are used to with steaks and smaller burgers. Here are some temperature suggestions: Rare – 130°F (54 °C); Medium-Rare – 135°F (57 °C); Medium – 145°F (63°C); Well Done – 150°f ( 66°C).  IMPORTANT: If you are worried about possible risks with undercooked ground beef, cook longer and adjust your temperature accordingly.

Sauce and extras like thick slices of onion and tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce are your option.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 fresh Hatch green chiles
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ketchup
  • 2 -4 good-quality hamburger buns
  • butter
  • 1 pound 93% fresh ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 – 4 slices asadero cheese

Method

  1. Heat the roasting grill until the screen turns bright red. Place the fresh chiles on the grill, turning them frequently until all sides are evenly charred. Remove from the heat and place in a zippered plastic bag. Allow them to cool. Then, under running water, peel away the charred skin. If you have roasted the chiles evenly, the skin should pull away easily. Remove the stems, slit one side, and remove seeds and ribs. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup together.
  3. Butter both halves of the hamburger buns and toast on a dry, hot skillet.  Spread both tops and bottoms with the mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup mixture. Set aside.
  4. Combine the meat with salt, pepper and optional cayenne. Gently divide into 2 or 4 equal portions. Press into patties about the same size as the buns.
  5. Heat a cast-iron skilled over high heat. When it smokes slightly, add the hamburger patties. Sauté on one side for 7 to 10 minutes. Turn and sauté the other side. Check the temperature with your instant-read probe thermometer.
  6. About 2 minutes before you are ready to finish the hamburgers, top each with 1-2 roasted green chiles, a generous slice of asadero cheese, and the top half of a hamburger bun. Check the temperature again.
  7. Transfer the burgers and toppings to the bottoms of the buns and serve immediately.
  8. Have available sliced onions, tomatoes, pickles,  other condiments, and sides of your choice – potato chips, French fires, potato salad, etc., etc.

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CHILES RELLENOS

Visitors to Santa Fe usually think of it as a visual place: the clouds and mesas that so enchanted Georgia O’Keeffe, the ancient adobe buildings around the Plaza, and the color of a fiesta. There are also sounds: the quiet of a December snow, crashing thunderstorms in the middle of summer, and the calls of geese and cranes flying overhead in the spring and fall. But Santa Fe is every bit a place of wonderful smells: lilacs pushing over an adobe wall in the springtime, the smell of a winter’s piñon fire burning in a fireplace near the Plaza. This time of year, the smell is of green chiles roasting. It is a fragrance like no other, and once you experience it, you never forget it.

Chiles have been growing during the hot summer throughout the state. Perhaps the most famous chile crop comes from Hatch,, but there are also bountiful sources in Chimayó and Socorro along with many a back yard.

All sorts of chiles at the farmers market

Chiles

When the chiles are ready for harvest, they are loaded into big gunny sacks and taken by truck all over the state. In Santa Fe, growers set up stalls throughout the city where they roast the green chiles on the spot in a revolving metal mesh drum over a blazing butane flame. The tough outer coat of the chiles is charred in the process so that it can be peeled off in preparation for cooking. The roasting creates a pungent, unmistakable smell that fills the air.

The farmers market also boasts chile roasters who make the festive environment even more vibrant.

Chile roasting at the farmers market

The spin of the chile roaster

The buyer can get a whole gunny sack full of roasted chiles or even a small plastic bag. Then the task is to take them home, peel off the charred skin, and either cook or freeze them for the winter ahead.

If you don’t need a green chile supply for the whole winter, you can even do them yourself on the barbecue or, better yet, on a special device made of metal screen and designed to sit over a gas flame. The device is indispensable for the Santa Fe cook. One can be ordered from the Santa Fe Cooking School.

Chile roasting pan

Roasting chiles

Roasted chiles resting in plastic bag before peeling

Green chiles wind up in just about every Santa Fe dish you can think of, including ice cream, but probably the most popular dishes are green chile stew, green chile cheeseburger, and my favorite, chiles rellenos.

Making a chile relleno is an act of love  because the preparation takes a lot of steps, and the chiles have to be eaten immediately. A leftover chile relleno is a soggy shadow of its former self. Still, they are worth the effort, especially when they are covered with a fresh salsa roja.  Here’s how you do it.

Roasted chiles peeled and ready for batter

Cheese pieces and chiles ready for stuffing

RECIPES

Chiles Rellenos

Ingredients

  • 6 to 12 Anaheim or New Mexico chiles
  • Monterey jack cheese, one ½x½x4 inch piece of cheese for each chile
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • all-purpose flour for dredging chiles
  • peanut oil for deep-frying

Two parts of batter before combining

Coating the chiles with batter

Method

  • Purchase roasted chiles or roast your own on a chile roasting pan over a high flame, a very hot barbecue grill, or in the oven under the drill. Turn frequently until all sides of all chiles are heavily charred.
  • Immediately place the chiles in a plastic bag and allow to cool. Then remove the chiles from the bag, and under running water peel the charred skin carefully so as not to tear the flesh of the chiles.
  • Cut off the stems of the chiles, pull out the seeds and inner membranes using your fingers. Rinse out the chiles to remove any loose seeds.
  • Gently stuff each chile with one of the pieces of cheese and set aside on paper towels.
  • In the meantime, prepare the batter by combining egg yolks, milk, flour, salt and vegetable oil using a rotary egg beater. Let the mixture blend for  30 minutes while you whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  • Gently fold the yolk and milk mixture into the whipped egg whites until well combined.
  • Dredge each prepared chile into flour. Then dip the chiles individually into the combined batter.
  • While preparing the chiles, pour enough peanut oil into a deep-sided heavy pot (A cast iron skillet works well) and heat to 375°F.
  • One at a time, place the batter-coated chiles into the hot oil. Cook no more than two at a time. Otherwise the chiles may stick together.
  • Turn the chiles when well browned on the bottom and finish frying the other side. Remove from the hot oil and drain on layers of paper towels.
  • Keep the finished chiles on a plate in an oven heated to 200°F until all of the chiles are fried. Serve immediately. Otherwise they may get soggy.

Testing oil temperature with a cube of bread

Chiles rellenos frying

Quick Salsa Roja

Ingredients

  • 1 14.5ounce can, diced tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry Mexican oregano, crumbled
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons ground red chiles (amount and heat according to your taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • In a blender, purée the canned tomatoes, including their juice
  • Transfer the puréed tomato to a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to the simmer
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients until completely combined. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes

Finished chiles rellenos ready to serve

Assembly

  • Place two or three warm chiles rellenos on each plate
  • Top with a generous serving of the salsa
  • Add rice and/or beans (refried or other) if you desire.

Chiles rellenos with rice and fresh pear with green chile raspberry preserves and almonds

I finished the meal with rice and a fresh pear-half filled with green chile flavored raspberry preserves (no kidding) and blanched almonds.

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GREEN CHILE CHICKEN STEW

Our family has lived in the Southwest for so long that we have adopted many of its traditions. For years we have made tamales on Christmas Eve, and now that is also a tradition for our children and their families, regardless of where they live. Making tamales from scratch is fun, and the fresh, finished product always tastes better than even the best store-bought versions. Posole warms the body and the soul on a cold winter evening, and it is perfect for a family gathering on New Year’s Eve. Biscochos (in El Paso) or biscochitos (in Santa Fe) have to be homemade and – like the tamales – have to be made with lard to taste like the real thing. The crisp anise-flavored cookies compete with my grandmother’s anise-flavored German springerle when it comes to dipping into a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of milk.

Chicken thighs cooking in stock with vegetables

Green chile chicken stew is in a class by itself. A hot bowl always reminds me of long-ago lunches in the lodges at the top of the runs at Taos Ski Valley or Ski Apache in Ruidoso. Our kids always ask for it when they visit us in Santa Fe, and so we try to have a pot on the stove for them when they arrive from a long cross-country drive. Our usual recipe calls for a whole chicken and makes enough for a large group. This version is quick, but by cooking the chicken in stock along with vegetables the broth becomes especially rich. If you are in a hurry, just skip adding the vegetables. The recipe makes enough for four adults. It is ideal for the late evening arrival of tired travelers.

Ready for your choice of garnishes

RECIPE

 Ingredients

4 Cups chicken stock

4 chicken thighs

1 medium onion, cut in quarters

1 medium carrot, cut in thirds

1 stalk celery cut in thirds

1 handful fresh celery leaves

3 stems fresh parsley

12 whole peppercorns

1 Roma tomato

2 Tablespoons cooking oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 ounces chopped green chiles

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

2 Tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring the chicken stock to the boil. Add the chicken thighs, onion, carrot, celery, celery leaves, parsley, and peppercorns. Continue to cook at a very low boil for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  2.  About 10 minutes before the chicken is cooked, squeeze the Roma tomato into the stock and add the pulp.
  3.  Remove from the heat. Strain the stock into a container and allow to cool so that you can remove the fat that gathers on the top. Set aside.
  4.  Remove the skin and bones from the thigh meat, chop the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  5. Clean the pot and return it to the stove over a medium flame. Heat the oil, and then add the diced onions. Cover and sweat the onions for 5 minutes or until they are soft and translucent. Do not allow them to brown.
  6. Add the green chiles and minced garlic and continue to cook, uncovered. Stir frequently until the moisture has evaporated from the mixture. Add the flour and stir continuously for about 3 minutes so that the onions and chiles are completely coated and the flour has lost its raw taste.
  7. Add the strained, cooled chicken stock and cubed potatoes. Return to the boil, stirring frequently. Continue to cook at a low boil until the potatoes are soft and cooked through – about 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. Add the chicken pieces, simmer for another 10 minutes, and then serve in large soup bowls along with your choice of garnishes.

Green chle stew with the garnishes our family likes

Garnishes

There are lots of traditional choices for garnish. We always like to pass bowls of chopped fresh cilantro leaves, thin-sliced, baked corn tortilla strips, grated Monterrey jack cheese, and diced avocados along with hot sauce for those who like their soup spicier. We also like to serve hot tortillas (corn or wheat) or cornbread fresh out of the oven.

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