Abuelita's Killer Red Chile

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Red Chile Sauce, photo by Wes NamanI never imagined that a single red chile enchilada could burn me out. After all, I've been eating New Mexican red chile enchiladas for 35 years, and although some red chile sauces are hotter than others, they usually run medium-hot at the hottest. But yesterday, Lois (the SuperSite editor and art director) and I had a business lunch at Abuelita's Restaurant at 6083 Isleta Boulevard in Albuquerque's South Valley, about three miles from my house. Fall was in the air, so I had a bowl of green chile stew plus a red chile enchilada a la carte. The stew was tasty and medium in heat. But it took me ten minutes to finish that single enchilada. It was just killer hot and I had to wait between bites for capsaicin dispersal. I called the server over and asked her if the chef had put habaneros in the red chile. Nope, she replied, it was just that last year's dried red chile crop they purchased was unusually hot. It was a perfect storm of the right combination of capsaicin genes colliding with some stress on those particular plants that produced an abnormally high amount of capsaicin. And I tried to wolf down that enchilada only to find that I had to treat it with extreme respect.

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