By Dave DeWitt, Timothy Gallus, Gwyneth Doland, and Mike Stines
A new process called "MicroRoastingTM" will soon revolutionize the roasting, peeling, and preservation of fresh New Mexican green chile. Your editor here at the SuperSite BBQ has been reporting on the story of chile pasado for more than two decades. Here are the exciting new developments as chile of the past becomes chile of the future.
A Blast from the Past
In 1987, when Dave and Mary Jane traveled from Albuquerque to Florence, Italy, their friends Wylie and Renato had just one request: "Please, please make some green chile chicken enchiladas for us and our neighbors." Dave and MJ agreed, but realized there would be some problems. Where would they find corn tortillas and green chile in Italy? Of course, they would have to bring them along. The tortillas were easy to pack-they didn't weigh much and no refrigeration was required.
But the green chile was another story. Canned green chile weighs a lot and let's face it: the flavor is not that great because most canned chile is not fire-roasted to remove the skin-a high-pressure steam process is used, and the chile lacks that authentic flavor. Frozen green chile, available only in New Mexico and a few neighboring cities like El Paso, has better flavor, but did Mary Jane and Dave really want to carry a cooler full of it with dry ice on the plane? No.
Then Dave had a brainstorm: chile pasado was the way to go. Chile pasado was sun-dried, roasted and peeled green chile. It was the traditional method of preserving green chile in New Mexico before the advent of freezers. Since chile is ninety percent water, when that's removed, the chile is lightweight and very easy to transport. Dave had heard of it, of course, but had never used it. And where to find chile pasado? He tried several hot shops with no luck.
Chile Pasado: Dehydrated, left; rehydrated, right
Then he recalled a little shop that he hadn't visited in years. It was called the Chile Konnection and was down on Broadway across from the main post office. He thought he was stepping into a mercado in Mexico--along with dried chiles everywhere was all the produce you would expect--mangos, guavas, avocados, papayas, and even fresh habaneros. And then he spotted the chile pasado. It was ugly-very dark, almost black strips of chile with the seeds still attached. And expensive: about $14 a pound! Dave estimated serving about ten people and bought a half-pound of it.
Back home, he soaked some of the strips in hot water and in about a half an hour later they had plumped up and turned much greener. He drained them and refrigerated them and the following morning Mary Jane put them into scrambled eggs for breakfast. They were hot, delicious, and virtually indistinguishable from fresh green chile. Dave knew that they would work in the enchiladas.
The chile was light, easy to pack, and transported well with little breakage. Since they were being use in a sauce, breakage didn't matter anyway. Mary Jane packed the tortillas and threw in a bag of pinto beans. Wylie and Renato were surprised by the appearance of the chile pasado, but Dave assured them that it would work. Now came the big decision: which Italian cheeses to use in the enchiladas. The particular recipe they were using called for cream cheese, which they couldn't find in the markets. Mozzarella was too stringy, so they settled on mascarpone, which closely resembled cream cheese.
Dave and MJ prepared the enchiladas for the party to serve ten, but only six people were in attendance. They ate everything, including the refried beans, went back for seconds, and did not complain about the heat of the chile, which was rated medium. It just goes to show that Italians like the hot stuff! Wylie and Renato were delighted that there was a lot of chile pasado left, so the next day Renato made a pizza-and guess what one of the toppings was!
Sadly, the Chile Konnection stopped carrying chile pasado and it became impossible to find in Albuquerque.
Technology to the Rescue
Flash-forward twenty-one years. David Gallus of AE International Laboratories emailed Dave and told him that he had read the chile pasado story on the Fiery Foods and Barbecue SuperSite and that he had really good news. He and his father Timothy had developed a chile pepper roasting and dehydration process that produces exceptionally high quality dried green chile. Would Dave like some samples? Of course he would. David sent the samples and Dave distributed them to contributing editors Mike Stines and Gwyneth Doland for testing.
Meanwhile, Timothy Gallus explained the new process. To preserve chiles, two steps are necessary. First the peel must be removed and second the chile pod must be made shelf-stable. The choices of peeling methods are roasting and steaming. Roasting is the traditional method and steaming is the industrial one. Both of these cook the chile in an attempt to remove the peel. While this cooking works well for immediate consumption, much flavor is lost in the months that follow. There are three methods used to make peeled chiles shelf-stable. The first method is cooking in a can. This method gives chile a second heat treatment and much more flavor and integrity is lost. The second method is freezing, which preserves the flavor but softens the product by destroying cells with crystal damage. The third method is dehydration that preserves not only the flavor but also the particle integrity of the chile. There are many possible combinations of these two steps, but the best way to produce chile that's virtually indistinguishable from fresh roasted is to roast and then dehydrate. Ironically, this method for preservation of chile is a traditional method that was used by the Pueblo people before the advent of freezers.
Now, after twenty years of research, AEI has been able to improve on chile pasado by separating and rearranging the order of the processes performed on the chiles. Following the concept that cooking should not precede consumption by more than one hour to achieve the best combination of roasted and cooked flavors, a new peeling process called MicroRoastingTM was developed. MicroRoastingTM is a computer-controlled system that automatically adjusts the roaster to peel areas on a single chile no larger than a dime. In this way, MicroRoastingTM is able to produce chiles that are peeled but not cooked. Like a gem cutter working to bring out the beauty of each individual stone, the MicroRoastingTM process is 40,000 times more selective than steam peeling.
With the skin removed and a smoky flavor left in its place, the dehydration process begins. Dehydration parameters are tightly controlled to insure that the chile's firmness and smoky flavor from MicroRoastingTM are preserved. The result is an emerald green InstantChile FuturoTM that is light and shelf-stable. In this dry state, the simple envelope mailer carries only valuable product, not ninety percent water, that can be carefully packaged and shipped worldwide. Because the process leaves the chiles supple, they arrive as whole pods to the customer even if the package has been crushed. Since the product is shelf-stable for two years, cooks and chileheads everywhere can enjoy the unique flavor of fresh roasted chiles all year long.
When the customer receives his or her shipment, the InstantChile FuturoTM is ready to be re-hydrated with garlic-salt water. As the chile rehydrates, it quickly pulls in the garlic and salt into each cell. This ensures that there is a uniformly seasoned chile with no watery flavor. Finally, the second part of the fresh roasted chile flavor can be released by cooking to combine with the smoky flavor created by MicroRoastingTM. Now, the fresh roasted chile flavor experience can begin. Throughout the process, no chemicals or preservatives are used. The end product is a shelf-stable, vibrant green, all-natural product that is ready to cook with after re-hydration. These quality gains have been achieved through the application of new technology controls to traditional methods.
From Left: Using MicroRoastingTM, the skin is precisely removed without cooking the pod; a perfectly skinned pod, ready for dehydrating; the finished dehydrated product; a perfectly rehydrated pod, ready to use in cooking.
To find out more and order pods, go to chilefuturo.com. You can also
Testing the InstantChile FuturoTM
Comments from Mike: "When Dave DeWitt asked me to develop a couple of sauce recipes for InstantChile Futuro™ pods I was a bit reluctant. I've used dehydrated chiles in several recipes before and was never impressed by their flavor or texture. InstantChile proved me wrong! The pods were supple, soft and very easy to rehydrate. The flavor is nearly identical to the fresh pod and the medium heat level is about the same as a fresh chile. "I like the InstantChile pods and would use them for any recipe calling for fresh green chiles."
Comments from Gwyneth: "Just think of all the applications for really nice, flavorful dried green chiles! Camping, for one. Fresh green chiles don't last very long when stuffed in a backpack with pots and pans and a collapsible shovel. But just a few of these can get tucked in a tiny pocket and used to spice up campfire stews. It used to be that when we wanted to take green chile to a friend we'd have to freeze it, wrap it up like a mummy and ship it overnight or tuck it in a suitcase and pray it didn't thaw. Now you can just tuck an almost-weightless package in your carry on, or send it parcel post!"
Recipes Using InstantChile FuturoTM Pods
Mike's Green Chile Futuro Sauce
Use this sauce to make the green chile enchiladas, below. You can also serve it over pasta! If apple juice is substituted for the chicken stock you'll have an Apple Green Chile Sauce that could be used for grilled pork.
4 InstantChile FuturoTM pods
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (home-made or low sodium)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Rehydrate the InstantChile FuturoTM by cutting the tops off of the pods and placing the pods in hot water for one hour. Remove the seeds and finely dice. (Four rehydrated pods will make 1/2 cup.)
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion is wilted, about four minutes. Add the garlic, stir and cook briefly. Whisk in the flour and cook for one minute. Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil; add the chiles, cumin and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.
(If desired, the sauce could be puréed with an immersion blender.)
Yield: About 2 cups
Heat Scale: Medium
Mike's Green Chile Barbecue Sauce
A combination of InstantChile FuturoTM and chipotle chile along with garlic, smoked paprika, ground mustard and vinegar makes a flavorful barbecue sauce that could be used on beef, pork or chicken. This sauce is not a basting sauce but should be served as a table sauce or slathered on the meat after it is taken off of the grill or smoker. This sauce could also be served at room temperature as a salsa.
6 InstantChile FuturoTM pods
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup good-quality ketchup
1 tablespoon dry mustard (Colman's English preferred)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Rehydrate the chiles by cutting off the stems and placing the chiles in very hot water for about one hour. Slice the chiles open and scrape out the seeds and veins. Dice the chiles to a small dice. (Six rehydrated chile pods will yield about 1 cup of diced chiles.)
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions wilt, about five minutes. Add the paprika, stir, and add the garlic; cook briefly. Add the diced tomatoes and the ketchup, cook for five minutes.
(Chef's note: Paprika should always be cooked in oil or butter to release the aromatics.)
Allow the sauce to cool slightly and, using an immersion blender, food processor or blender, purée the sauce until smooth. Return the sauce to the stovetop over medium heat.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
Yield: 2 1/2 cups
Heat scale: Medium
Gwyn's Mole Verde with Dried Green Chiles
The concentrated flavor of dried green chiles works great in this spicy mole, so don't bother to rehydrate them first. Use it over any grilled meat or fish.
3/4 pound tomatillos, husked and washed
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
3-inch piece of canela (Mexican cinnamon)
4 InstantChile FuturoTM pods, stemmed and seeded but not rehydrated
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried
3 romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Put the tomatillos and stock in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas, cumin seeds, cloves, and canela until the seeds start to pop and turn golden. Transfer the seeds and spices to the pitcher of your blender.
When the tomatillos are done, transfer them to blender. Add the dried chiles, onion, and garlic, and puree, adding a little stock if necessary. (Depending on the capacity of your blender, you may have to do this in two batches.)
In the same skillet over medium heat, fry the puree in the oil until it browns slightly.
Meanwhile, add the cilantro and lettuce leaves to the blender and puree with 1 cup of the stock. Add the pureed leaves to the skillet and heat through. Serve immediately.
Yield: About 3 cups
Heat Scale: Medium
Gwyn's Midwinter Corn Salsa
In the summer, before the chile and corn crops comes in, you can use dried chiles and canned corn to give you a little preview of summer's bounty.
1 (15-ounce) can corn
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 to 3 InstantChile FuturoTM pods, rehydrated, stemmed, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
In a bowl, combine the corn, bell pepper, green onions, and chiles. Season to taste with lime juice, salt, and pepper. Stir in cilantro and serve.
Yield: About 2 cups
Heat Scale: Medium
Dave's Santa Fe Salad with Chile Futuro Dressing
If piñon nuts are not available, substitute sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts in this spicy tossed green salad. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.
4 InstantChile FuturoTM pods, reconstituted and chopped to make about ½ cup
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup jicama, diced, or substitute green apples
4 green onions, chopped, including the green part
2 chopped red ripe tomatoes
Mixed salad greens--radicchio, butter, and red leaf lettuce
1/4 cup piñon nuts
To make the Dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and allow the dressing to sit for a few hours covered, in the refrigerator, to blend the flavors.
To make the salad: Combine the jicama, onions, tomatoes, and salad greens. Toss with the dressing, top with the nuts, and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
Dave's Enchiladas Verdes con ChileFuturoTM
(Green Enchiladas with Chile of the Future)
Here's the recipe Dave and Mary Jane served to their friends in Italy, but using Mike's sauce recipe, above. In parentheses are the Italian ingredients they used as substitutes. Serve the enchiladas with refried beans and guacamole.
2 large chicken breasts
2 cups chicken stock
6 ounces cream cheese (mascarpone)
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
2 cups Mike's Green Chile Futuro Sauce, above
5 teaspoons minced cilantro (Italian parsley)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sour cream for garnish (optional)
Place the chicken breasts and the stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the breasts and reserve the stock. Remove the skin from the breasts and shred the meat into small pieces.
In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, shredded chicken, and the onions and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Place Mike's Green Chile Pasado Sauce in a blender and add the cilantro and 1/4 cup of the reserved chicken stock. Blend at high speed to form a smooth paste. Add the egg and the salt and pepper and blend briefly. Remove the puree to a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet, heat the oil until hot. Using tongs, fry each tortilla in the oil for about 5 seconds a side so they are soft. If you overcook them, they will be tough. Drain each tortilla on paper towels. Place each tortilla on a plate and put about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the middle. Smooth it out and roll up each tortilla into a thick cylinder. Place in a 8 by 12 inch glass baking dish, seam side down. When all of the tortillas are placed in a single layer, cover them with blended chile pasado puree and top with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the enchiladas are slightly browned on top. Serve immediately, topped with sour cream if desired.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
Dave's Green Chile Stew
This is adapted from The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia (William Morrow, 1999). Here is the beef stew or macaroni and cheese of New Mexico--a basic dish with as many variations as there are cooks. Add a warmed flour tortilla and you have a complete meal.
2 pounds pork, cubed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
8 to 10 InstantChile FuturoTM pods, reconstituted and chopped to make about 1 1/2 cups
3 cups water
In a skillet, brown the pork in the oil. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for a couple of minutes.
Combine all the ingredients in a large pan or crockpot and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Heat Scale: Medium-hot