The Recipe: A New Mexico-style salsa verde, green chile sauce. Tomatillos add a certain authentic sourness, poblano chiles a warm smokiness. This is definitely "not" a spicy-hot green chile sauce. In fact, it's almost smoky-sweet – and astoundingly good.
The Conversation: What's the first thing Minnesota snowbirds eat when returning to New Mexico for the winter? Green Chile Burgers!
When my snowbird aunt and uncle reach New Mexico in a few weeks, their first food stop will be for green chile burgers.
My aunt is adamant about the choice. With the winter's first green chile burger, she says, "I know that we are really back in New Mexico.” Somehow, green chile 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 chile burger, just to clinch, for sure, my arrival. Ha! Never once did a green chile burger appear on a menu!
So ever since, I’ve wanted to experience one as authentically as possible, even if concocted back here in the Midwest.
First up, the green chile 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.
And wow, 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 definitely worth the hour it takes to make at home.
Next up, green chile 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. “You won’t be able to tell the difference,” he promised.
So simple good is simple does. Good ground beef. Salt and pepper. A toasted bun.
It gets no better. We're back in Missouri. But for a few bites, I feel transported back to the arroyos and rainbows of New Mexico.
CRAZY FOR GREEN CHILE Ever since our trip to Santa Fe, I've put green chiles into one recipe after another. Here are just a few! For dinner, check out Supper Casserole with Pumpkin & Green Chile Cornbread Topping or Quick Green Chile Stew. For sides, try a Savory Sweet Potato Casserole and Microwave Green Chili Cheese Grits.
GREEN CHILE 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
- Olive oil
- 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
TOMATILLOS 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 until smooth.
POBLANOS Meanwhile, place a large sheet of foil on a baking sheet. Skin-side up, flatten the peppers onto the foil, rub a tiny bit of oil on the skins 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.
SALSA VERDE Meanwhile, in a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil on medium heat 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 at first, add the broth, fully blending in each tablespoon before adding another.
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.
Can be eaten immediately or covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Usually, you'll rewarm it for serving.
For Word Dancers: Chile vs Chili
Let's not put a chill in the room but can we talk chile vs chili? I've gone back and forth but at the moment in 2015, when I say"chile" it's to refer to hot and spicy capsicum peppers like jalapeños, poblanos, Hatch chiles, etc., also to the special dishes made from them. "Chili"? That's reserved for hot soupy-stews that we serve by the bowl during cold weather.
But if you say chili? No problem! Either way, could we please just chill out and eat?
More Recipes Starring Tomatillos & Poblano Peppers
Exploring Santa Fe
What an unforgettable afternoon! We stopped on the side of the road between Santa Fe and Taos, outside was pounding rain! But directly above were blue skies and sunshine. And then we looked toward the Rio Grande, an amazing rainbow!
"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. Sorry, update, this restaurant has closed. 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 chile 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 chile burger. Otherwise, obsessions with green chile sauce may ensue.
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