New Mexicans are known for our addiction to chile. We find ways to integrate it into virtually every meal. We use it beyond traditional New Mexican cuisine. Chile Wine, Chile Chocolate, Green Chile Chicken Soup, Green Chile Fettucine Alfredo with blackened chicken, Green Chile Quiche, Green Chile and Bacon Omelettes, Green Chile Cheeseburgers, Huevos Rancheros, Green Chile Pizza, etc. I could go on, but I am already making myself hungry. The list of possibilities rivals Pvt. Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue’s inventiveness with shrimp in the movie Forrest Gump.
For many New Mexicans, myself included, the smell, the taste, the mere mention of chile induces an immediate Pavlovian response. I have witnessed this on social media, where a bad cell phone video of green chile roasting has about a 90% chance of going viral if the audience is comprised of New Mexicans.
Red or Green?
“Red or Green?” is the official state question. Chile is like wine. Some people prefer red. Some people prefer green. Many don’t care about color, they simply prefer more chile. Responding “Christmas” means you want both.
Purists, like the owner of El Potrero’s Trading Post in Chimayo, are adamantly opposed to ordering “Christmas.” He says that eating red and green chile together cancels out the unique flavor of each, leaving only the heat on the palate. With an impressive variety of dried chile available at his store, including the prized Chimayo heirloom red chile, he demonstrated by having me taste them independently and together. He proved his point, but I feigned skepticism for the sake of sampling more. I was hungry and there’s always room for more chile.
Health Benefits of Chile
There are numerous possible explanations for the local obsession. The most obvious one is that chile tastes good whether used in sweet or savory dishes. However, there are additional benefits that shouldn’t be discounted. The heat of the chile causes the body to release Endorphins. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce pain and alleviate stress.
Chile is also incredibly nutritious, with anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. Red and green chile are rich sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. It is essential for collagen synthesis. Collagen is one of the main structural proteins required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. ½ cup of chile, approximately 100 grams, provides about 240% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, as well as 39% of vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine), 32% of vitamin A, 13% of iron, 14% of copper, and 7% of potassium. Chile has also been found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. It is like high octane fuel for your body.
I have written up several green chile recipes based on traditional New Mexican cuisine; however, there are so many ways to incorporate it into every meal. The following recipe for green chile cheese bread will spice up your sandwiches and take your toast to the next level.
Green Chile Cheese Bread
Servings: One Loaf
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
- salt to taste
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp butter
- A package of dry yeast
- 1 cup milk
- 1 ½ cups of chopped green chile (Drain the water if using canned chile. Dry with a paper towel if using fresh chopped.)
- A cup of shredded cheese, more or less based on preference (I like sharp cheddar.)
- Dissolve yeast in 1/8 cup of warm water. Add the milk, butter, salt and sugar. Stir until well blended.
- Add 1 ½ cups of flour to the mixture. Add the green chile and cheese. Stir until combined.
- Add remaining flour to make a soft dough. The dough will be a bit sticky. If it is too sticky to work with, add another tablespoon or so of flour. Place the dough in a greased bowl and allow it to rise for 1 ½ hours.
- Remove from bowl and shape into round loafs or put into loaf pans. Grease and flour the pan before baking or the cheese will stick.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
- Bake at 450 degrees until brown, about 18-20 minutes (425 degrees in a convection oven)