Last week when I posed the question what's green, comes in a trash bag, and is a certain rancher-woman's reason for living, several readers asked what process I used to roast my chile. I wish I could tell you that I painstakingly roasted them one by one over a campfire, but the truth is, this year my neighbor just dropped them off at my gate. The local high school where she teaches had a fundraiser; why bother selling candy when you can sell roasted green chile? I love New Mexico.
Anyway, had the green chile fairy not shown up at my gate, I would have bought my annual sack at a farm market or grocery store or...heaven forbid...Walmart, where I went to take these pictures so that I could show you this time-honored New Mexico tradition.
At Walmart, you can buy green chile by the pound or by the box. The 30-pound box will set you back $19.88, but that includes the roasting.
You take your box of chile out to the parking lot, where the roasting stand is set up. I played chile paparazzo early on a Friday morning, and only a few people were standing in line. On Saturdays, I've seen the line stretch all the way down the sidewalk. This roasting stand was equipped with three propane-fired roasting drums.
The chile man dumps your box of chile into one of the motorized drums, which spin over gas flames. Round and round the chile goes, when it stops only Chile Man knows. He watches and waits until the chile skin is perfectly charred, which seems to take somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.
As the chile roasts, many of the seeds and charred pieces of skin fall into the pan below the drum. Chile Man sweeps all this debris out of the pan, then opens the roaster.
Out comes the perfectly roasted, steaming hot chile.
Chile Man dons his gloves and carefully scoops the green gold into a milk crate lined with a trash bag.
He is very careful to extract each and every chile from the drum, then he twists the bag and ties it tightly in a knot, sealing in the steam.
Chile Man delivers the bag of goods to Happy Customer. If Happy Customer is smart, he will set the bag of steaming chile next to him in his truck and enjoy the aroma all the way home, and for weeks to come since the smell permeates everything within a mile radius.
By the time Happy Customer arrives home, the chile will have steamed in the trash bag for awhile, making it easier for Happy Customer to remove the charred skin and seeds before he places it in baggies to store in the freezer for the coming year.
Here's one more fun fact about chile that non-New Mexicans may not know. The red chile ristras you often see in southwest decor? Those are just ripened green chiles, strung together and hung to dry. The dried red chile pods are boiled down in water and pureed to make a red chile sauce.
Red or green, New Mexicans are passionate about their chile and some of us literally can't go a day without it.