A grey gloom is stretching outside my window. There was rain and there's more to come. Autumn is finally here, and the now-working heating is on. I've been drinking cup after cup of tea, and I've found that the only way to truly warm up is from the inside out.
If you're feeling even a hint of this kind of chill, I have a suggestion for you.
New Mexican Green Chile Stew.
I have this one issue of Saveur Magazine (September/October 2001) that is the most dog-earred, crumpled, wreck of a magazine. It is the issue that keeps on giving. I've made Pork Roast with Mustard and Herbes de Provence countless times. It is phenomenal. The Arroz con Pollo is the epitome of comfort food. I've whipped up the classic Clafoutis aux Pommes and now I can say that I've prepared the Green Chile Stew. It won't be the last time.
The recipe for green chile stew is a quintessential New Mexican recipe with a twist. It uses beef instead of pork. The humble chuck roast to be exact. The beef has a satisfying chew and its bath with the onions and garlic in slowly bubbling water produces a richly flavorful broth. Being a passionate soup-lover, this stew appealed to me on an intrinsic level. The soupiness is just what you need to cure a rotten case of the shivers.
This is not a complicated recipe. The hardest part is charring and peeling the anaheim chiles. This type of task used to scare me off when I was younger, but I've gotten the hang of it, and once you get in a groove, you can make quick work of it. Using the broiler is a breeze, but you can also char them on your stove-top if you suffer from broiler-phobia as I used to.
The recipe is in fact so simple, verging on minimal, that I was concerned that it might be a flop. Chiles, chuck roast, onion, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, cumin. Sounds so basic. I swear when the meat was simmering away, I was the most skeptical of all. Boiled meat and onions, hmm. I really wasn't turned on. The pot looked so grey. But it is amazing what a simmer, some chiles and onion, garlic, tomatoes, and cumin can do.
The flavor is actually quite huge. Although this green chile stew is not very spicy. There is a faint notion of heat, but that is it. The robust beefy broth is soothing and verging on addictive.
I do have an important reminder, which I foolishly did not listen to when I said the same thing to myself. Do not crowd the pot, when you are browning the chunks of beef. I doubled the recipe. As I was throwing all the beef into the pot to brown, I knew I was making a big mistake. Your meat will boil not brown if the pot is too crowded. I know this. You know this. Listen! It makes such a difference.
The enticing aroma will fill your house. The windows will steam up. You will feel like your are doing right by the season. To my mind hot buttered tortillas are a necessary accompaniment and perhaps a crisp salad to finish it off.
New Mexican Green Chile Stew
8 medium-hot fresh green chiles, such as anaheim or new mexico
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless beef chuck, in 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 new potatoes, peeled (I didn't bother peeling) and halved
2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Set oven rack in top third of the oven and preheat the broiler. Arrange chiles in a single layer on a large baking sheet and broil on each side just until their skin blisters and chars, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chiles to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using your fingers, peel off skins and remove and discard stems and seeds. Coarsely chop chiles and set aside.
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Generously season beef with salt, then add meat to pot and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water, scraping any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover pot, and simmer until meat is tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.
Add potatoes to pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking, partially covered, until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, cumin, reserved chiles, and salt to taste and simmer, completely covered, until meat is very tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes more. Adjust seasonings. Serve with warm flour tortillas, if you like.