Dragons roar and grown men weep. Both are signs that Fall is upon us in the Duke City, and that means it’s Green Chile Time. We are lucky to have chile sold and roasted right in our Adobe Nido neighborhood, and the aroma when they’re roasting is heavenly. If someone made incense that smelled like roasting chile, I would buy it.
The chile is generally sold in 40lb burlap sacks, but you can buy it in the produce section one at a time just like bell peppers. The produce section has green chile year round, but the big crop from New Mexico chile farms comes in only in the fall, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, so you can’t wait too long if you want your year’s supply put up in the freezer.
My son in law saw fit to buy us a roasted sack of chile this weekend. He’s a keeper. I wasn’t quite prepared for this so it required me to get brutal with cleaning out the freezer, which usually doesn’t happen unless there is a reason, so that was good too. The house smelled wonderful as soon as the boxed up sack of freshly roasted green pods came through the door. Heavenly.
The picture is of my grandson, and this was his first experience with the big iron, fire breathing dragon that is a chile roasting cage. He was mesmerized. The roaster sounds like a dragon when the propane burners are lit. It feels like a dragon too so you really have to step back, hence his distance from the action. It cooks like a dragon too.
The dragon has a small electric motor that spins the cage to tumble the chile past the burners. It’s a simple yet ingenious machine, and I have to think it must have been invented in New Mexico, because where else do people feel the need to have one? They didn’t have these when I first moved to NM in 1978 so if you bought a sack back then, you spent the weekend roasting it on the patio grill. The machine takes about 10 minutes.
When the chile is finished roasting it is dumped onto a shoot and slides easily into a box lined with a food grade plastic bag which is then promptly sealed so the hot pods can steam themselves. On the ride home you leave the windows closed no mater how warm it is outside, because your car has just transformed into an aromatherapy spa. Once it arrives at it’s destiny, (my kitchen), people will usually knock heads trying to get their face into that bag for a big sniff, or several.
The bagging begins after the pods have steamed for 30 minutes or so. We bag roasted chile skins-on because they are really easy to peel after they thaw; so easy the skins nearly just rinse off. Some folks like to peel them first, but I am not that brave. That’s too much chili on my skin and it last for hours. Don’t scratch your eyes, don’t touch any tender parts, don’t change the babies’ diaper, and be careful when relieving yourself.
After the process is over you just have to eat some right away! And you are always so chile crazed at this point, the simpler, safer delivery method is to throw a whole roasted chile on a warm flour tortilla and dive in. We restrained ourselves long enough to chop several chiles, added a little cheddar and grilled it into a quesadilla. A little taste of heaven on earth. It was pretty hot stuff and I’m pretty sure I saw a tear in my husband’s eye. Joy or burn? Both.
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Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!