New Mexico’s legendary chiles are renowned for their their sweet and earthy flavor and beguiling assertive heat. Their flavor is unlike any other chile in the world. When eating in New Mexico the colloquial question is “Green or Red?”as chiles play a part in most meals.
New Mexico’s chile growing season begins in mid- summer and culminates in late fall when the chiles are harvested and the aroma of roasting green chiles fills the air. It’s that time of year when cocido, a New Mexican roasted green chile stew, is on the menu to ward off the chills of fall and winter.
A New Mexican chile harvest for most is a savored idea or a memory of a visit vividly remembered. Luckily for we far flung cooks New Mexican roasted green chiles are available frozen as a first choice and canned as a second. I have found Bueno brand frozen green chiles in my local supermarket as well as Hatch brand canned roasted green chiles as a backup should the frozen be out of stock once the season’s harvested supply is depleted. There are also sources available online. You can even reserve a supply in advance from the next season’s harvest. Amazon has a wide variety of sourcing options to choose from. All New Mexican brands offer both mild and hot flame roasted chiles.
So you are probably wondering should I use mild or hot?
That depends entirely on your tolerance level of a chile peppers heat. I can say this, hot New Mexican chiles are seriously HOT! The capsicin levels from these hot chiles trigger a release endorphins and dopamine that produces that tingling “chile high” if you will, along with a refreshing sweat on the back of your neck. However, unlike the scorching heat of the small red chilies used in Southeast Asian cooking, the much larger New Mexican green chile’s heat peaks quickly and then stabilize at a palatable level as you continue to eat.
My advise to all you cooks is to combine both mild and hot chiles at first and discover your own comfort level.
The recipe that follows is a very easy basic New Mexican roasted green chile sauce that I made at least once a day when I was teaching New Mexican cooking in Santa Fe years ago. This green chile sauce is ideal for enchiladas, tacos, with grilled meats and fish, as well as added to a queso fundido, or as a base for a green chile “Cocido” green chile stew with the addition of pork, potatoes, and corn. (click here for a similar recipe)
The applications for this New Mexican green chile sauce abound!
So let’s get cooking!
New Mexican Roasted Green Chile Sauce (basics)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, pealed and chopped ( about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup chopped hot green chiles and 1 ½ cups mild green chiles, or 2 cups chiles of choice
- ½ teaspoon toasted ground cumin seeds
- a pinch of Mexican oregano
- 2cups hot chicken stock, a bouillon cube dissolved in hot water, or just hot water
- 1teaspoon salt or to taste
Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium low heat. When the oil is hot and add onions and saute for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic.
Saute another minute and then stir in the flour. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent the flour from browning.
Add chilies and stir to combine. Pour in hot stock and seasonings. Bring to boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 or 20 minutes partially covered, stirring from time to time to avoid scorching.
Taste and add salt as needed.
Cool the sauce to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for later use.
This rich buttery caramel sauce is so good you will find yourself sneaking off to the fridge with spoon in hand for a discreet indulgence. Friends have begged for the recipe and I have even done a couple kitchen classes for friends so they could make this caramel sauce at home. Believe me, this salted caramel sauce is unctuously satisfying !
So, with the holidays fast approaching, this caramel sauce is an irresistible embellishment to consider for all sorts of holiday treats as well as a perfect larder gift for friends.
The recipe is very easy, but a practice run is probably a good idea as it may be a little challenging for the uninitiated. That said, if you follow the steps as described in the recipe you will be successful on your very first go at it.
Salted Caramel Sauce makes 1 1/2 cups
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz 85 g) salted butter, cubed
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream, well warmed
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon flaked sea salt
Best to use a large heavy bottomed saucepan ( 4 quart or larger) with high sides as there is some bubbling up as the butter sugar mixture heats up and caramelizes.
Step 1 Melt the butter and sugar together in the saucepan set over medium heat while stirring continuously.
Step 2 Continue to cook the butter and sugar together, stirring continuously. The mixture will go through several stages, including bubbling up, separating, and finally coming together and smoothing out as the color begins to deepen. Be patient this will take about 8 to 10 minutes.
Once the mixture begins to color the process will speed up quickly. For a light colored caramel you want to promptly proceed to step 3 just before the mixture begins to smoke. If you prefer a deeper amber caramel with an almost nutty flavor you want to stop the cooking when the mixture is just beginning to smoke. There is a fine line at this juncture between browned and burnt caramel sauce so best to be cautious.
Step 3 Immediately remove the pan from the heat and begin adding the warmed cream while stirring continuously. The sauce will bubble up at first and then smooth out as you continue stirring until the sauce is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt and continue to stir until the sauce until completely smooth and silky.
Allow the sauce to cool before storing in a clean glass jar with lid. When completely cool store in the refrigerator.
When ready to serve warm the sauce in a water bath or in the microwave to a spoonable consistency before serving .
The sauce stored in a lidded jar will last for months in the refrigerator, though I doubt this will be an issue!
When the weather gets colder my food cravings automatically start to wander southward in an effort to stave off the inevitable fact that winter is a coming. One of my all time go to favorite frigid weather culinary escapes was ducking into a Cuban Chinese diner called Mi Chinita on 8th ave and 18th street when I was living in NY in the late 70’s. The windows were all steamed up and the place was always packed. Believe me, this was transportive fare!
I don’t know a lot about Cuban food’s evolution, but migrant Chinese workers that arrived in Cuba after slavery was abolished added their indelible culinary fingerprint to the local diet.
Likewise, Cuba has had had an influx of Mexicans laborers from the Yucatan since the 19th century who have added their voice to an evolving Cuban cuisine.
Fast forward to Cuban’s emigrating to the US during Castro’s revolution and opening up Cuban Chinese American restaurants in the 70’s and 80’s.
Long story short, Cuban cuisine is a fascinating melding of cultures that is undeniably a part of the ever evolving inclusive tastes of the American palate.
I am a great fan of tacos in any form, including those filled with a Chinese stir fry paired with the essentials of a typical Cuban plate that includes well seasoned black beans, rice, and fried plantains/ tostones. This is hearty food with all the bright flavors of the tropics that are a welcome respite from the chills of fall and winter.
Cuban Chinese Tacos
Needed: 1 package each of street size flour and corn tortillas(4 ½ “ / 11cm in diameter) warmed before serving
- 1 pound chicken, pork, or beef thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoon corn starch divided
- ¼ cup cold water
- oil for stir frying
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled, quartered, and sliced
- 1 each red and yellow bell peppers, quartered, seeded, cut into thin strips, and halved
- 2 or 3 serrano green chiles, quartered, seeded, cut into thin strips, and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 inch knob fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced, and diced
- 2 cups shredded bok choy or green cabbage
- 1 chayote, peeled, quartered, center core removed, and diced
- 1 cup chicken stock divided
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 or 3 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine or sherry
- red chile flakes to taste
- soy sauce to taste
Place the sliced chicken pork, or beef in a bowl. In a cup combine 1 tablespoon of corn starch with ¼ cup cold water and stir until combined. Pour the mixture over the meat and swirl to combine. Add a little more water if needed to just cover the meat and set aside for 30 minutes. This step will tenderize the meat.
Select a wok or a wide skillet and heat over medium high heat. When the pan is hot add several tablespoons of oil and swirl the pan to coat the pan with oil. Add the meat in a single layer and cook the meat until it is seared and begins to release from the pan. Turn the meat over and seer until browned and then transfer the seared meat to a plate and set aside.
Add a little more oil to the pan if needed and add the onions and stir fry briskly. As the onions sear they will pick up the remaining bits stuck to the pan adding flavor to the onions. Continue stirring until the onions begin to wilt.
Add the sliced bell peppers, diced serrano chilies, and sliced garlic and stir fry until the onions are translucent. Add the ginger, carrots and stir fry until combined.
Add the bok choy, or cabbage, and the chayote and toss to combine. Add a little chicken stock to lubricate the pan and continue stir frying until the vegetables are just wilted.
Add the sesame oil and toss. Then add the oyster sauce, Chinese cooking wine, or sherry, and toss until combined. Add the chile flakes to taste.
In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup stock combined with the remaining 2 tablespoons of corn starch and stir until combined and smooth.
Add the seared meat to the stir fry and then slowly stir in the corn starch mixture and continue stir frying for another two minutes or until the liquid has thickened and nicely coats the stir fry.
Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Then set the stir fry aside and ready for filling the soft warmed tortillas.
As pictured, have ready a pot of hot and spicy black beans, a bowl of hot steamed rice of your choice, and fried plantains/ tostones. Fill the tortillas and add to the plate and you are ready to go!
Note: Tostones are fried plantains Cuban style, which are actually twice fried until crispy. By all means make them if you know how. There are several tostone making videos available if you are feeling ambitious. Or instead simply pan fry plantains or unripe bananas, sliced in half lengthwise, which are a a fine substitute. The slight sweetness of the fried bananas are a nice foil for the spicy heat of the tacos and the black beans
For basics on how to cook beans (click here)
I used to make some stellar Thai basil pesto variations when I was living in in Thailand. But Thai basil is hard to find here in the US unless you’re lucky enough to have an Asian grocery store near by.
By all means use Thai basil if it is available for the recipe that follows. There are two varieties to look for. Thai sweet basil has pointed bright green aromatic leaves with a hint of anise and an after note e of cinnamon. Thai holly basil leaves are a deep green or sometimes reddish purple leaves with an earthy peppery flavor. Both variegates are distinctly more assertive in flavor than broad leaf Italian basil.
If Thai basil is not available, just adapt and diversify, which is how this recipe evolved. The secret to Thai food’s popularity is a cleaver one. Most Thai dishes include all five elements of taste, those being salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (savory) flavors in one dish which is pure genius. It’s no wonder why Thai food is so loved. With that concept in mind I used readily available broad leaf Italian basil along with some hot jalapenos from south of the border, some Thai fish sauce, lime juice, cashews (abundant in Thailand) and you end up with a Thai- americano pesto!
This is a pesto you will want to add to your repertoire. A dollop added to almost any savory dish will have it bursting with all the flavors of a Thai- americano mash up.
Pictured is Thai..americano Peato served on toasted bread strips atop a salad of baby arugula, pickled beets and hard cooked eggs, and shaved aged provolone cheese.
Thai…americano Pesto Makes about 1 ½ cups
- 3 cups fresh torn broad leaf Italian basil leaves, or Thai basil if available
- 2 tablespoon minced garlic
- 3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and diced
- ½ cup chopped cashews
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce +more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- cold water as needed for thinning
Place the basil leaves, garlic, 3 tablespoons lime juice, jalapeno chiles, cashews, ¾ teaspoon of salt, fish sauce, and sugar in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are broken down into a coarse paste.
Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Turn the machine on and pour the olive oil into the feed tube and continue to run the machine until all the oil is incorporated.
Stop the machine and taste the pesto and add additional salt and fish sauce to taste. If the pesto needs thinning, turn the machine on and add 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Transfer the pesto to a nonreactive container, cover, and refrigerate.
The pesto can be served chilled or at room temperature with endless applications.
Listed are additional pesto recipes that I have posted over the years to to expand your pesto repertoire for freezing for later use during the winter months.
Fresh Sweet Italian Basil Pesto (see here)
Pesto alla Siciliana & Pesto Trapanese (see here)
Spinach Pesto with Pancetta (see here)
Pomegranate Glazed Pork Loin with Pistachio Pesto (see here)
Pesto Diverso (see here)