Top five qualities of the best green chile stew

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It's roasting time again!
Green chile season is now upon us, and this means the pervading aroma of burning chiles will soon fill the air as parking lots fill up with eager chile-philes waiting patiently, burlap bags in hand, for their turn to watch the roasters work their rolling, smoking magic. This season also translates to many stoves capped with many pots of green chile stew -- every one of them different, and some better than others.

Here's my list of the top five qualities of the best green chile stew. Pay close attention, because when folks don't like your green chile, they aren't shy about letting you know it....

5. Balance -- ingredient ratios in line with the universe.

If you screw up the delicate and crucial ratio of pork to chile, the Jedi will feel it. The best chile stews and sauces use pork, not beef -- and if you pollute it with ground beef, you deserve to be spat upon. And that's cubed pork, with just enough fat to make the broth rich, but not enough to make oily pools in the stew. A good balance is one part pork to three parts chile, because too much pork makes the sauce clunky, and too little is stingy and unsatisfying. Use enough garlic to flavor but not overwhelm, and a nip of diced tomatoes and potatoes - just enough to add color and texture.

4. Consistency and color -- medium-thick and greeny-tan.

Thin, watery green chile sauces and stews serve no useful purpose -- except maybe to showcase your noob skills -- and sauces that are thick like oatmeal don't par-sink gracefully between the folds of tortillas and over the ends of enchiladas. You want a medium-thick consistency that won't turn your rellenos into soggy sponges. Good color is definitely a marker of a fine sauce; we see it before we put it in our mouth-holes. Greeny-gray is a bad color, and straight gray is worse. You want a khaki-to-light caramel gravy punctuated with vivid green, with accents of red tomatoes and white potatoes, and tiny black char-bits--like a bright, springtime camouflage pattern.

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"Using mild green chiles is for wussy wieners who will spend their entire lives stagnating in their own sadness-stew of limitations."


This just earned a spot on my list of all-time favorite food quotes.


My personal take: instead of tomatoes, use tomatillos (preferably ones that have been broiled until blackened and collapsed).  They add a tangy acidity that really complements the chiles and brings the flavor level up a notch.  And if you don't do pork, it's better to substitute dark-meat chicken or turkey than beef - beef just doesn't go as well with the flavors of green chiles and tomatillos.  Save the brisket for your bowl o' red.


I agree with the five qualities, but I kinda love that everyone makes their green chile a little differently. That's part of the fun. Your neighbor's green chile tastes different than your uncle's green chile, etc. Your mother-in-law uses potatoes, and your best friend adds roasted corn. I even kinda love that the consistency is a little different across the board.


The only "musts" for me are Pork, a fair level of heat and flavor. 

Mantonat topcommenter

Potatoes? People who put potatoes in their green chile probably also put ketchup on their hot dogs.


When I make green chile at home, I'm not satisfied unless someone's face peels off and lands in their bowl. And yes, I am overcompensating - I was raised by Canadians.

davebarnes topcommenter

Great imagery.

"Using mild green chiles...professional counseling."

jenna-furrr topcommenter

 @Jon_S Thank you, sir. I like to bring my dark, twisted thoughts and feelers into my work on an occasion.

jenna-furrr topcommenter

 @charlesjpowell I think that corn offers a nice color and all, but adds too much sweetness. That and every other effing "southwestern" style dish I can think of globs so much effin corn and cilantro on everything, it's nice to catch a break from corn-sweetened soap flavors.

jenna-furrr topcommenter

 @Mantonat The things I do--alone, in the dark--with ketchup would send all of you right to therapy.

jenna-furrr topcommenter

 @davebarnes I was gonna mention Zoloft, but I don't wanna give Big Pharma a handjob this week.

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