Episode Guide: Chile in New Mexico Img

Chiles are the celebrated backbone of Southwestern cuisine. We’re traveling the state to explore the variety of chile peppers purposed in a variety of ways. Through a colorful New Mexico road trip, we trace the history and current state of chile from Santa Fe to Hatch. The chile pepper is a delicate, yet hardy fruit, renowned and respected for its variety, flavor, and heat has a commanding presence in the cuisine and broader culture of New Mexico that is difficult to match elsewhere.

A Visit to the Sante Fe Farmers Market

Capri meets with Dr. Stephanie Walker, co-director of the Chile Pepper Institute at the Santa Fe Farmers Market to learn about the history and significance of Chile in New Mexico. 

As they walk through the market — which is one of the oldest in the U.S. — Dr. Walker introduces Capri to Matt Romero, a chile farmer who has run Romero Farms for 20 years and grows a rare heritage breed of chile that he roasts and sells at the market. Capri learns about his farm and Matt shows Capri how he roasts his chiles on site. 

Read more about why chile grow so well in New Mexico and how they’ve become central to the local agriculture economy.

Harvesting & Cooking with the Iconic Hatch Chile

Capri visits third generation chile farmers Jamie and Cole Viramontes near Hatch, New Mexico. They hand-harvest their chile fields, and bring chiles back to their store where they roast and process, including into ristras, which are the decorative braided chiles you’ll see hanging across the state, the welcoming wreath of New Mexico. Capri how to cook one of his favorite chile dishes — Chile Rellenos with both green and red chile. This recipe transports Cole and his family back to his own childhood kitchen, and keeps the family connected with 

Viramontes Hatch Chile Rellenos

  • 4-6 large chiles
  • Garlic salt for sprinkling
  • Muenster cheese, cut into slices
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Oil for grilling

Prepare the Chiles:

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange chiles on it. Set the oven rack close to the broiler and preheat the broiler. Place peppers under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the skin is blackened and blistered. Flip them over and broil for another 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the peppers from the oven and loosely cover them with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Let them sit for 5 minutes to steam. 
  3. Peel off as much of the blistered skin as possible. For less heat, slit the peppers and remove the seeds and veins. Leave them in for more spice.
  4. Sprinkle the chiles lightly with garlic salt.

Make the Batter:

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and milk together until well combined. Gradually add the flour, continuing to beat until the batter is smooth.

Stuff the Chiles:

  1. Carefully slice open each chile just enough to make room for the cheese, being careful not to cut all the way through. Insert a slice of Muenster cheese into each chile.

Grill the Chiles:

  1. Heat a light coating of oil in a cast iron pan or on a cooktop over medium heat.
  2. Dip the stuffed chiles into the batter, ensuring they are fully coated.
  3. Place the chiles in the hot pan and grill for about 2 minutes on each side, or until the batter is toasted and crispy.

Serve immediately while hot with tortillas and pinto beans for a traditional New Mexican chile farm meal. And a family tradition: make some extra, because leftover chiles are great for stuffing burritos the next day! 

Culinary Fun with Chile: Sparky’s Burgers

Capri visits a legendary stop in Hatch samples what the New Mexico State Fair awarded the “Best Chile Cheeseburger in New Mexico”: Sparky’s Burgers. There’s a LOT of competition for that title, but owners Teako and Josie Nunn have a special process and philosophy for their version of the classic burger. And what to wash down the burger? A green chile lemonade! The restaurant’s menu is as enthralling as its decor, with fiberglass giant statues and vintage signs around the property.  

See Sparky’s Chocolate Green Chile Milkshake recipe from New Mexico Magazine here (Ozzy Osbourne famously drank one on his TV show Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour). 

The Best Chile in New Mexico

Capri attends the New Mexico Chile Taste-Off where farmers from all over the state bring their chiles for a chance to be named “Best Chile in New Mexico.” Travis Day, Executive Director of the New Mexico Chile Association, shares about the tradition and what the title means to the winning grower. 

Travis invites Capri to join the panel of judges and score them according to contest criteria. Once awarded, she speaks with the winning grower about what the honor means to them.  Both  winners of the red and green competition credit their success to long traditions of farming in their family, and their use of time-honored techniques.

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