Vol.1, No.9

Red chilis vs green chilis

Green or Red? This is the official state question of New Mexico, and asks which type of chile you prefer.

Red and green chilis
Red or Green? No, this is not a question about which Christmas color you prefer. It is actually the official state question of New Mexico, and refers to which type of chile you prefer. Red chile is prepared from, well, red chiles, which are typically dried and then reconstituted with water before being cooked. Green chiles, on the other hand, are picked fresh and then roasted, peeled, chopped, and used for the basis of the delicious dish known as chile verde. As green chiles must either be used or frozen shortly after being picked, they most often feature as a regional specialty, frequently used in the cuisine of New Mexico (where many such peppers are grown), but not that of Mexico. Mexican cuisine tends to rely more heavily on the red chile, as in its dried form it keeps and transports well. Both red and green chiles actually come from the same plants, it's just that the peppers change color (from green to yellow to red) as they ripen even further.

When it comes to the sauces or stews made from these respective types of chile, many connoisseurs ask, which is hotter, the red or the green? The answer is: it varies. Green is usually considered a bit hotter, while red is said to be milder but more pungent. Some consider the red to be more consistent in its heat level, with the green more likely to vary between extremely spicy and not so spicy. One point in the green chile's favor, though: it definitely has a higher level of vitamin C than its red counterpart. A chile pepper can contain up to six times as much vitamin C as an orange, but the vitamin content decreases with cooking and even more so in the dried chile product. Chiles are also high in levels of Vitamin A (more so in the red chile here), Vitamin E, and the B vitamins.

So- red or green? What will it be? Should you find yourself in New Mexico (or elsewhere) and asked this question, if you are unable to make up your mind, just ask for "Christmas". This is the term used for a serving of both chiles, red and green together, and it is a taste treat worthy of the holiday of the same name! For those of you who prefer to do it yourself, here are a few recipes you can try at home:

Chile Verde (Green Chile Stew w. Pork)

3 lbs. pork butt

3 large onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 cup roasted, peeled green chilies, chopped

1 small can (11-15 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chiles (I prefer the Ro-Tel extra-hot variety with habaneros for a really spicy chile)

3 tablespoons flour

Salt & pepper to taste

Lard, shortening, or vegetable olive oil

Trim excess fat from the pork and cut it into cubes. Brown the meat

in lard, shortening, or oil. Remove meat from the pan and sprinkle it with the flour. Brown the onions and garlic in the frying pan until they are transparent. Add meat, oregano, chilies to onion mixture and add water to cover. Simmer 2 to 3 hours. During last half hour add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.

Red Chile Stew

8 dried red New Mexican chiles

2 pounds beef stew meat or pork butt cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons lard, shortening, or vegetable oil

3 or more cups beef broth, divided

Arrange chiles on a cookie sheet and place in a 200 degree F oven for 5 minutes or until they smell like they are toasted. (Watch so they don't burn!). Remove the stems and seeds. Cover the chiles with 2 cups of the beef broth, let sit for 20 minutes or more until they are softened. Place the chiles and broth in a blender and purée until smooth. Brown the meat in the fat or oil, then remove it from the pan. Add 1 cup of the beef broth to the pan, stir it around and scrape up all the meat juices. Combine chile puree, broth, and meat in a large pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or more until the meat is very tender and starts to fall apart and the stew is thickened. Add more beef broth or water if necessary.