Menu: Elisha’s Green Chile Stew
When I was in high school my friend, Angi, was in love with potatoes. As theater geeks we ate lunch every day in the drama classroom, slumped over those tiny L-shaped desks attached to melamine chairs. I always brought my lunch from home, which my mother packed for me until the day I graduated high school (lest you think I’m a total lazy bones, I did wash my own laundry from the tender age of 12). My lunch usually consisted of a turkey sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a trio of Ho-Hos or a 100 Grand bar. Needless to say, my metabolism was a bit more efficient back then. Angi, on the other hand, religiously ate a baked potato from the school lunchroom. When we went out to dinner at Trotter’s, a local restaurant and ice cream parlor oddly outfitted in horse-themed paraphernalia, which we did nearly every Friday night after play rehearsal, Angi would choose the baked potato side. Or sometimes the French fries. Or, if potato soup was the special, she might order that. When I found myself traveling in Peru, the home of the potato, a few years ago, I thought to myself, “Angi would love this place.” To this day I can’t think about a potato without thinking of her.
Last week Angi flew into Albuquerque from Seattle so that we could road trip to Sedona, Arizona, and meet up with our friend, Heidi, who lives in Las Vegas, for a long weekend. I spent the week trying to figure out what to cook for Angi during her one-night stay in the Land of Enchantment. I wasn’t sure if her love affair with tubers persisted but I found myself combing through every potato recipe in my arsenal. Shepherd’s Pie, scalloped potatoes, gnocchi: it all felt a little heavy for a springtime supper. Finally, I sent her an email and asked if anything special appealed to her, and she responded that she wanted something typically New Mexican. “Can you handle some heat?” I wrote back to her. Although I had already prepared a pot of green chile stew for my visiting mother-in-law earlier that week I couldn’t think of anything more New Mexican. Plus, it has potatoes.
When we sat down to dinner we began reminiscing about the last time our trio had traveled together. In 1996, the summer after high school graduation, we took a 10-day tour of England and Scotland as part of a theater-going trip hosted by our school. While we saw world-class theater and Stonehenge, Shakespeare’s home and Westminster Abbey, what we collectively remember most about that trip is two things: a fight that broke out over Quiche Lorraine and a potato restaurant in Edinburgh. (I will not bore you with the details of the former except to say that I get really cranky when I’m hungry, and at that time I abhorred eggs.) We had been aimlessly wandering the city in search of food, which is something that we found ourselves doing three times a day, every day, on that trip. Rounding a corner we suddenly found ourselves facing a bright green edifice with smiling, cartoony potatoes as door handles. I don’t remember but what the place was called, but when we stepped inside we discovered it was a restaurant that served nothing but potato dishes.
I would say that Angi had discovered Mecca except for the fact that it was overwhelming to be faced with a menu of everything she loved. When I was a graduate student in counseling psychology I did a great deal of study regarding the psychology of happiness, and research seems to indicate that fewer choices often make us happiest, which is why we find ourselves in a stupor in the cereal aisle at the grocery story. I can’t remember if we ate at the potato restaurant or ran out the door in panicky blaze, but sitting here now, faced only with the choice of green chile stew, Angi seemed pretty content. She even went back for seconds, making sure to fish out plenty of chunks of potato.
Elizabeth Grant Thomas writes regularly at her site, elizabethgrantthomas.com, and can be found here every other Tuesday chronicling her family’s journey “back to the table.”
Elisha’s Green Chile Stew
I hesitate to include this recipe here for your approval. New Mexicans are rabid and particular about their green chile stew, and this version is anything but traditional. I am not a native New Mexican, but when I moved here seven years ago I developed an affinity for green chile stew and wanted a sturdy recipe that I could make at home. After sampling several different variations and asking around for recipes I found myself gravitating towards this one from my friend, Elisha. I’ve tweaked it over the years to suit my tastes and whims, but one thing that remains constant is the surprising, but delicious, inclusion of zucchini. I often make this dish for out-of-town guests who want a taste of The Land of Enchantment, and I vary the amount of green chile depending on a guest’s heat tolerance. You could vary the configuration of vegetables depending on what’s in season, but I like the trio of carrots, potatoes, and zucchini. Green chile, tucked away in your freezer from last year’s harvest, is always in season!
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 – 1 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed into ½” pieces, fat removed
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed into ½” pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced into ¼” rounds
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and then cut into ¼” slices
8 cups of chicken, beef or vegetable broth, divided
¼ – ½ cup green chile, diced (depending on taste and level of heat in the chiles)
- Place olive oil in a Dutch oven; heat over medium. When oil is warm add cubed pork and cook just until meat has lost its pink color.
- Add onion and garlic and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until just beginning to soften.
- Add 4 cups of broth, place lid partially over pot, and lower heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer.
- Simmer for two hours.
- Add potatoes, carrots, zucchini, green chile, and remaining four cups of broth; cook until vegetables are soft, 20-30 minutes.
- Serve with tortillas and enjoy!