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Tastemakers
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

September 23, 1999

In September, 1999, we were chosen by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to be the Tastemakers featured in the Taste section of the paper. Jay spent about a year attempting to market New Mexico chiles to Minneapolis-St. Paul grocery stores, but we decided ultimately that for the labor and expense involved, it was cheaper for us just to fly to New Mexico once a year and stock up on chiles for our family and friends! Meanwhile, it was fun to be the featured "Tastemakers."

This is the text of the article written by Dimitria Phill.

Jay and Dorothy Harris
For years, Jay and Dorothy Harris have returned from trips to New Mexico with their bags stuffed with chiles. It was the only way they could reproduce their favorite New Mexican recipes at home in Minneapolis. Soon, family and friends wanted their own chile stash so they could prepare the aromatic foods that came from the Harris kitchen. Finally, this past spring, the Harrises began Chile Minnesota, a business that brings the chiles and cuisine of New Mexico to Minnesota.

20,000 acres of chiles
Deep in the Rio Grande Valley in southern New Mexico, 20,000 acres are devoted to growing the New Mexico chile. It is also called the Hatch chile because it is grown near the city of Hatch. It's a large chile, about 6 inches long and 1½ inches wide, with a medium to hot flavor. The hot version is called the Sandia; the mild variety is called Long Jim.

The chile is picked and used in recipes when it is green as well as after it has fully ripened and turned red. Green chiles are used fresh in sauces, stews, salsa and for chiles rellenos. Fresh red chiles are pureed and used in sauces. Red chiles also are used dried, both whole and powdered.

"While jalapeño is used by the teaspoon to season a recipe, New Mexico chile is used by the cup as a main ingredient," said Jay. "In a recipe such as chicken and green chile cheese casserole, chile is layered with the other ingredients, similar to lasagna."

New Mexican cuisine
Much of the food in New Mexico is based on Spanish and American Indian foods. Corn, pork and chile are incorporated into stews, egg dishes and fresh salads such as guacamole and salsa. Recipes rely on the subtle, hot and spicy flavors of the New Mexico chile.

"You might be driving along the mountains and come upon an old lady selling green chile stew at her roadside stand," said Jay. "The stew would be made with green chile, lamb or pork and potatoes. And she would make fresh fry bread to sell with bowls of the stew."

"In New Mexico, the grocery stores roast green chiles for you," said Dorothy. "They roast the chiles just enough to loosen the skins. You buy roasted chiles and freeze them to use later."

Buying chiles
Chile Minnesota
distributes green and red New Mexico chiles, plus chile sauce, chiles rellenos, tamales and green chile stew. All the items are made by Chile Products of New Mexico Inc. Selected Byerly's and Lunds stores and Morgan's Mexican and Lebanese Foods in St. Paul sell the items distributed by Chile Minnesota. 

Tips for using chiles
Dorothy likes to experiment with New Mexico chiles, adding them to all types of recipes. "Take your basic Swedish meatball recipe from Betty Crocker, throw in some chile, and the meatballs turn out wonderfully," she said. Here are a few more of the Harrises' tips for using green chile in everyday recipes. (All of these ideas call for frozen chopped green chiles, thawed and drained.)

Mashed potatoes are enhanced with chiles and shredded cheese. Chiles are also good in home fries and hash browns.

Mix chiles into hamburger before shaping and cooking. Or use chiles as a burger condiment.

Add chiles to scrambled eggs, omelets and quiche. Serve with warm corn tortillas and salsa.

Use chiles as a topping for homemade, delivered or frozen pizza.

Add chiles to guacamole, salsa, cheese dip and hot dips -- chile is great in artichoke dip.

Incorporate chiles into breads such as corn bread and bread machine recipes.

Add chiles to soups, stews and rice pilaf.

Today's recipe:  Green Chile Chicken Casserole

Jay has been preparing this easy casserole for years. "Green chile and chicken blend beautifully," he said. "There are chiles that are hotter than the New Mexico chile, and others that have more flavor, but no other chile has the balance of flavor and heat that these chiles have."

-- Dimitria T. Phill, Minneapolis freelance writer.
 


 


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