I have a recurring dream – ok, nightmare. In my ‘dream’, I wake up to a world that is devoid of all meaning…a world in which all that is good is gone…a world in which I no longer have the will to carry on. Yes…you got it. A world without green chile. I told you it was bad, didn’t I? When this happens, I dash to the kitchen, throw open the cabinets and reassure myself that It’s OK. We still have green chile..
This isn’t just my bad dream. It’s the bad dream of about 99.9% of the people in New Mexico. And let’s face it, you don’t want to know the other .1% The reason? We’re mad about chile. Over the top, crazy like a coyote, mad.
We’ve been growing chile for hundreds of years and it’s our top agricultural crop (cue, inspirational music and fluttering of state flags). Now don’t get me wrong. There are lots of chiles out there that are green (think green jalapenos, poblanos – you get the idea). But in New Mexico, when we say green chile, we mean the stuff we grow right here, either in Northern New Mexico or down south around Hatch.
And every August our hearts start to flutter when we see the first chile roasters pop up along every roadside, parking lot, farmer’s market and backyard around.
The place goes bonkers. The black wire cages fed by propane start turning and we stand there mesmerized. It’s the smell. It’s impossible to describe how intoxicating it is. And all the more so because we know it won’t last.
What’s the difference between green and red chile? Time (and taste). Green chile is harvested when it’s ‘unripe’ (which sounds a bit mean like someone introducing you as so-and-so’s younger brother or sister). But the point is that if green chile is left on the plant, it will turn red and develop a different flavor. Now that’s not a bad thing because red chile is fabulous. But it does mean that for a short window of time, New Mexico’s farmers are harvesting this year’s green chile crop, then it’s over until next year.
Luckily, roasted green chile dries like a dream (this time a good dream). All you have to do is rehydrate it and it’s back in business. You can even pick up that elusive chile roaster aroma. So go back to bed…even when the roasters have been stored away for another year, you can still get your green chile fix.
You’ve got to hand it to the French. They take ham and cheese and give it a fancy-pants name like Croque Monsieur and suddenly it sounds all oh-la-la. But you know what? A Croque Monsieur is pretty incredible because it’s more than a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The egg batter makes it puff up slightly, so it’s all crispy on the outside and yummy on the inside. And this version is even better because the green chile gives it a nice kick.
Serves 2, or one very hungry person.
1 large egg
1 ½ tbsp milk
¼ tsp Los Chileros Chile Molido Powder
4 slices of brioche or a nice white country loaf
Thinly sliced cheddar cheese – enough to cover four slices of bread
Sliced ham – enough to cover two slices of bread
Los Chileros New Mexico Green Chile Whole, rehydrated*
2 tbsp butter
Whisk the egg, milk, red chile powder and salt to season in a shallow bowl, large enough to comfortably fit the bread. Place 2 slices of bread on the counter. Top with a layer of cheese. Cover the cheese with strips of green chile, then the ham and finish off with another layer of cheese. Place another slice of bread on top and set aside. Repeat with the other two slices of bread so you have two sandwiches. Dip the sandwiches in the egg batter. Heat the butter in the skillet. When the butter has melted and is slightly sizzling (but not burning!) add the sandwiches and cook on both sides until nicely browned. Slice each sandwich in half and serve.
*You’ll probably have leftover green chile but what a great problem to have! Dice it up and toss it in chicken soup. Throw some on a tortilla with grilled veggies, a dollop of guacamole and crumbled goat’s cheese. Pop it on a burger. Puree it and make a sauce. What are you waiting for? Get going!