Recipe for a New Mexico-style salsa verde, green chili sauce.
When my snowbird aunt and uncle reach New Mexico in a few weeks, their first food stop will be for green chili burgers. My aunt is adamant about the choice, “I really 'know' we are in New Mexico when I have my first green chili burger of the winter.” Somehow, green chili burgers proclaim, “Hello, New Mexico! We’re here! We’re back!”
So on my own trek to Santa Fe in August, I knew to hunt up a green chili burger, just to clinch, for sure, my arrival. Ha! Never once did a green chili burger appear on a menu. Ever since, I’ve wanted to experience one, even one concocted back here in the Midwest albeit as authentically as possible.
First up, the green chili sauce, which, according to The Feast of Santa Fe: Cooking of the American Southwest is also called chili verde, salsa verde, chile verde con tomatillos and salsa de tomatillo. This stuff is fresh and wonderful! It has that slight sour from the tomatillos, that smoky darkness from the roasted poblanos. This stuff is good, worth a trip to the Southwest and if not, worth the hour it takes to make at home.
Next up, green chili burgers! At first I fussed with recipes for gourmet burgers, y’know, where you grind this with that and add this and poke that. My butcher laughed at these notions and packed up a big hunk of good ground beef. “I promise, you won’t be able to tell the difference.” So simple good is simple does. Good ground beef. Salt and pepper. A toasted bun.
It gets no better. I’m back in Missouri but for a few bites, am transported back to the arroyos and rainbows of New Mexico.
GREEN CHILI SAUCE
Time to table: about 2 hours
Makes 3 cups
- 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed
- 1 pound poblano peppers, stems, seeds and membrane removed, halved
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 a large onion, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tomatillos, cover and return to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, drain. Transfer to a food processor, process til smooth.
Meanwhile, place a large sheet of foil on a baking sheet. Skin-side up, flatten the peppers onto the foil and put under the broiler until the skins bubble and blacken. Fold the foil over to form a packet, seal and let rest for 5 minutes. Peel off and discard the skins. Add the flesh to the tomatillos and process until smooth.
Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil on medium until shimmery. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and barely golden. Stir in the flour and stir well, let cook for a minute. (Cooking the flour in an almost-dry pot helps cook off some of the rawness. It takes just a minute but makes a big difference in the resulting flavor.) A tablespoon at a time, add the broth, fully incorporating each tablespoon before adding more. Stir in the tomatillo-poblano mixture, the spices and seasoning. Return pot to a boil, watching carefully so not to burn the bottom. Reduce heat to maintain a very slow simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.
More Recipes Starring Poblano Peppers
Aqua Santa is unimpressive from the street but the open kitchen and warm service make for a place I’d love-love-love to have in my own neighborhood. The Compound’s sunny outside patio made for a special lunch. Cafe Pasqual’s is a touristy spot but the friendly between-table banter and the easy breakfast choices took us back twice.
But my favorite place of all is in a small casita north of Santa Fe that doesn’t take reservations, a little spot called Karina’s Kitchen. Oh wait – that’s not a restaurant, it’s the home of the Gluten-free Goddess herself, Karina Allrich. She and her husband Steve hosted a memorable birthday supper, where we feasted on simple pleasures like this gluten-free cucumber salad and formed friendships easy to imagine lasting a lifetime.
My aunt recommends two spots for green chili burgers in New Mexico, the Owl Bar and Manny's Buckthorn Bar & Grill, both in San Antonio, New Mexico. (Note to Self: Never again leave New Mexico without sampling at least one green chili burger. Otherwise, obsessions with green chili sauce may ensue.)
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