Every time I visit my sister and brother-in-law in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I insist on eating as many dishes with chilies as possible. I say to them all of the time, "I have to eat all of the chilies!" This year's trip is obviously different thanks to COVID, which means fewer meals out in the amazing restaurants here, but that doesn't mean any fewer chilies for me.
Chile peppers are grown all over New Mexico and originally by the Pueblo, but the major commercial production is in the Southern part of the state. The most sought after are called "hatch" chilies and grow in the Hatch Valley along the Rio Grande. They are similar but not quite the same to peppers called "Anaheim" found in other parts of the country.
New Mexico chilies typically grow from a green to a ripened red, and the chile has different flavors depending on how ripe it is. Green chile flavor has hints of onion and garlic with a subtly sweet, spicy, crisp and smoky taste. That smokiness comes from roasting the peppers to remove the tough skins. The ripened red adds an earthiness and mellowed out flavor due to the aging of the pepper. The spiciness depends on the variety of pepper.
By the time Summer ends, the green peppers are ripening and turning to a rich, deep red color. Some of the fresh red pods are picked and tied into the colorful Ristras you'll see hanging all over New Mexico as decorations, but they're not just pretty to look at. Once the peppers are dried, they become the starting point for the rich red chile sauce used in a multitude of recipes.
Ristras at my sister's house in New Mexico
Green chile is served whole or diced and in various sauces. The most common uses are on enchiladas, burritos, burgers, bread or rice.
You can find green chile here frozen, canned or already made into a sauce.
The dry red chile pods are usually rehydrated to make sauce that has similar uses to the green chile sauce.
Order "chile" in New Mexico and the immediate response is usually "Red or Green?" And if you want both, you say "Christmas." I love the mixture of the two flavors so that's my standard order.
When my sister found a recipe in the New York Times featuring a New Mexican apple pie featuring green chilies, we had to make it while I was visiting. So, on a snowy day this week, we maneuvered around Adele, my sister's 120-pound Malamute, who insists on lying in the most trafficked part of the kitchen to make this pie.
It's an interesting pie with sweet and savory components, a streusel-like topping and a crunchy, cheesy crust. I will say serving a slice of this pie with vanilla ice cream is a must, as the cool sweet ice cream helps balance the heat in the pie filling.
You'll notice the apples we started with are brown because my sister has apple trees and therefore an abundance of apples in the fall. She peels, slices and tosses them with lemon juice before freezing in batches. Our apples weren't overly sweet, so I added a touch more sugar to this recipe. Feel free to do the same if you are working with especially tart apples.
Look at all of them apples!
One other adjustment we made to this recipe was to substitute pine nuts (aka piñóns in New Mexico) for the walnuts in the original recipe. The pine nuts add a crunch, a bit of sweetness and are more authentic to New Mexico cuisine. In fact, my sister and brother-in-law have piñón trees on their property. Last year, they had so many nuts, people would just drive up and ask if they could harvest them. If you've ever tried to shell a pine nut which is actually the second step in harvesting them from the cone, you now understand why they are so expensive. It's a lot of work!
Give this pie a try, and let me know what you think in the comments. It's truly a taste of authentic New Mexico cuisine in every bite!
Apple Green Chile Pie with Cheddar Crust
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 1 pie, 8 servings
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Inactive time: 2 hours
For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup shortening, chilled
1/3 cup cold water
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
For the filling:
5 cups peeled and sliced tart apples, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
1/2 cup chopped roasted green Hatch chilies, mild or medium hot, drained (see note below)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 - 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
For the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vanilla ice cream
To make the crust:
1. Place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
2. Cut the butter and shortening into small pieces and add to processor along with cheese. Be sure to keep all ingredients as cold as possible.
3. Pulse the mixture until crumbly and the fat is in small pieces throughout the flour.
4. Working quickly, start the processor and add cold water until the mixture just forms a ball.
5. Turn out dough onto a work surface and shape into an oval.
6. Cut the dough in half and press the cut side down to form two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days before rolling out.
Note: You will only need 1 disk of pie dough for this recipe so put the other one in the freezer for another pie in the future.
To make the pie:
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
8. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a circle at least 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Flute rim by pinching into a zigzag pattern. Put in freezer while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling:
9. In a large bowl, toss apples, green chilies and lemon juice together. In another bowl, mix dry ingredients and add to apples and chilies, tossing until thoroughly coated.
To make the topping:
10. In a small bowl, mix flour, pine nuts and brown sugar. Add melted butter and toss together until crumbly.
To bake the pie:
11. Using a slotted spoon, scoop filling into chilled crust, then drizzle 2 Tablespoons of juice from bottom of bowl. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until filling bubbles at edge and crust is brown.
12. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Note: Roasted green Hatch chilies from New Mexico can be found in canned or frozen form. If you can't find them in your local grocery store, you can order online.
Learn how to work with green chilies in our demonstration class Winter Soups and Stews on Saturday, December 26 at 11am at Lincoln Square. You'll learn to make:
- Beef Paprikash with Egg Noodles
- Braised Chicken, Green Chile and Hominy Stew
- French Onion Soup with Toasted Gruyere Cheese Crouton
- Seafood Gumbo with Crab and Crawfish
Not in Chicago? You can learn a delicious side dish featuring green chilies in our virtual Family Night Chili and Cornbread on Sunday, November 22 at 4pm CST. You can choose to watch as a demo or cook along in real-time with our chef to make:
- Three Bean Turkey Chili
- Green Chili-Cheddar Cornbread Muffins
- Southwestern Chopped Salad