Right around August 1, I start to smell roasted green chiles. It’s a phantom smell, stuck in my own internal calendar from the years we lived in New Mexico. Most New Mexican green chiles are grown around the town of Hatch, although farmers in other regions of the state will often grow the fleshy chile as well. In late July, round roasters pop up on the side of the road, spinning the chiles so they roast evenly. The aroma that comes from this process is heady and smoky and sweet all at once. If green chiles ripen, they become red chiles, and these are dried and ground into a smooth sauce. Every New Mexican dish comes with “green or red,” and most people either have a strong preference, or they go for “Christmas,” the red smoky, the green acidic.
Sometimes we think about moving back to New Mexico, and the access to chile is one of the first reasons on our list. Instead, we order a box of chiles every August and roast them ourselves on the grill for a year’s worth in the chest freezer. The shipping costs are high, but it’s cheaper than moving. Our first chile meal is always posole, a stew of green chile and hominy, a kind of treated corn. You can buy hominy dried and cook it like a grain, but this is one of the few situations when I think the canned version is tastier. Green chiles can vary in heat, so it’s good to taste as you go and bring it right to your preference. And if you have leftover pork, chicken, or beef, you can add it for a meaty version. You can also buy canned green chiles, a poor but often necessary substitute. They never seem to be spicy enough, so I always augment canned green chiles with hot sauce.
- Yield: 2 Quarts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup minced onion (about 1 onion)
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups roughly chopped green cabbage
- pound Yukon Gold potatoes (2 to 3 potatoes), cut into 1-inch chunks
- 15 ounce cans hominy, drained
- 2½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup chopped roasted green chiles (from 5 to 7 chiles) or 3 2.75-ounce cans
- 2 cups leftover shredded or cubed chicken, pork, or beef
- ½ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
- Cubed avocado, crème fraîche or sour cream, lime wedges, hot sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, salt, cabbage, potatoes, hominy, stock, and ¾ cup of the green chiles to the pot, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the mixture up to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the cabbage and potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Stir in the meat, if using, and parsley. Taste, and add the remaining chiles, if the soup can stand to get spicier. Cook for an additional minute. Serve in bowls with cubed avocado and crème fraîche, with lime wedges for squeezing on the side, and hot sauce, if desired.