Green chile season is coming up and I wanted to share some thoughts for anyone interested.
What is it?
A sauce or stew made with green (unripened) chili peppers, typically New Mexican chiles, named after their region of cultivation (Hatch, Anaheim, Pueblo, etc). If you order something "smothered" in Colorado or New Mexico, it's what's going to be covering everything you ordered. What gravy is to the midwest, green chile is to the southwest.
What's in it?
The simplest recipes are just chiles, a liquid, and a thickener. Many recipes incorporate aromatics, other vegetables, meat and seasonings
The best chiles for this dish are going to be the New Mexican variety, roasted for you by the bushel. Hatch is the most well-known but they're also grown outside of New Mexico and I can't tell the difference. The next best are frozen roasted/diced chiles. After that, canned ones are fine. I've only ever seen Hatch chiles frozen or canned. I had a coworker from New Mexico who used roasted jalapenos for her green chile, and she won the chili cookoff every year in the hot/green category, so I think it's not typical but it can work if you like it hot.
Water can be used but I prefer stock. Pork stock is the most common but I prefer chicken. I typically have a lot of backs/necks on hand so that's what I use. I think most people use pork shoulder roasts but I prefer stock with more collagen. I would bet a stock made from a trotter would be amazing.
A light roux is the default, usually made with lard. Santiago's restaurant in Denver uses bacon fat for their roux. I usually use schmatlz skimmed from my chicken stock, but anything works here really. Cornstarch is not ideal. It's fine for fine adjustments but I wouldn't use it to thicken the whole batch. I prefer masa for thickening (a la Chubby's).
Onions are common. I would dice finely and cook in whatever fat you're using for the roux, then add the flour to the cooked onion/fat mixture. Garlic is seldom used, I would advice against it.
Tomatoes are common, used sparingly. I've seen tomatillos used as well, but don't. The chiles are already acidic and tomatillos don't bring anything to the party in my opinion. Tomato paste is also commonly used, which I would recommend to add depth of flavor.
Pork is the most common type of meat used, usually from whatever stock was made. I usually skip it.
I've seen one or all of the following used: cumin, coriander and oregano. You don't need them. You at least need salt. I use the Knorr chicken powder (caldo de pollo) which is very salty.
Here's a recipe I've been tinkering with for the past decade or so.
5-7lbs of green chilles, roasted and cleaned.
1 huge onion or 2 medium
1 gallon of chicken stock + 2 cups reserved
6oz tomato paste
Chicken fat or neutral oil like canola
Cook the onions in a large pot with the fat.
Add a quart of the chicken stock and half the chiles.
Blend chile/onion mixture to a smooth consistency
Add remaining half of the chiles with a medium/fine dice (somewhere between 1/4"-1/2" squares).
Add tomato paste and bring to a boil
Season to taste with salt or chicken powder
Mix 1-2 cups of masa with the reserved stock (the blended chiles help thicken the dish, use 1 cup for a thinner sauce, 2 cups for a thicker sauce depending on preference)
Add to boiling pot while whisking vigorously to incorporate
Bring back to a boil and check for lumps and consistency
Adjust thickness and salt level
Serve on everything and enjoy!