Judging by the crowds at the Heirloom Farmers Markets’ chile festivals last week, everyone in town should be well-supplied with freshly roasted Hatch chiles. I know I am.
I brought my haul home and laid the chiles one by one on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a sheet of baking parchment. Once they were frozen, I transferred them to zip-top bags, repeating until all the chiles were frozen. Now my freezer holds three gallon-sized bags of individually frozen hot Hatch chiles, ready to use all winter. Will that be enough? I’m not confident that it will be.
A side benefit of freezing those roasted chiles is that their skins slip off even more easily as you thaw them individually under cool running water.
Sunday afternoon’s cooler temperatures fostered in me an inchoate desire for something chicken-y and stew-y for Sunday’s supper. Prowling the aisles of Trader Joe’s, I found a bag of frozen roasted corn kernels with Cotija — something I’ve not seen elsewhere, and something I knew that I had to try. It provided me with just the dinner inspiration I needed.
If you can’t find already-roasted corn, you can easily make your own. Thaw a cup or so of frozen corn kernels, then char them in a skillet with a tablespoon of oil over high heat. Some of the corn kernels should show blackened bits.
With just the purchase of some chicken thighs and the frozen corn, I had all the makings for a Southwestern-style chicken-green chile stew. I used thighs instead of chicken breasts in the stew for a fuller, rounder flavor; the dark meat contributes a richness that bland white meat cannot.
While I used crema in the stew, crème fraîche or sour cream can substitute. If you use sour cream, it’s important not to let the stew boil after you add it. Sour cream will break if it boils. Crema or crème fraiche are better choices if you need to keep the stew warm for a while before serving.
If you didn’t get in on the Hatch chile frenzy this season, that’s OK. Roasted poblanos work well here, too, and if the stew isn’t as spicy as you’d like, stir in a little chili powder. Alternatively, you can also use canned diced green chiles to bring their flavor to the dish.
I loved this easy stew with warm flour tortillas, but you could also serve it over biscuits. Or make some cornmeal-chile-cheese dumplings to cook atop the stew: Whisk together 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon each chili powder and salt. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup grated cheddar and 2 tablespoons diced green chile. Stir in 1/2 cup milk. Drop by the tablespoonful atop the simmering stew. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until dumplings are cooked through and dry to the touch.
However you make it, this stew is satisfyingly rich but not heavy — a fine meal for an early fall Arizona repast.
Chicken-green chile stew
Makes 4 to 6 servings
A food processor makes quick work of the chopping for this recipe, but chopping by hand is fine, too. Serve this savory stew with warm flour tortillas to dip into the flavorful sauce. If your chiles are mild, make this stew spicier by adding hot chili powder when you add the thyme and cumin.
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, cut into large chunks
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into large chunks
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 large roasted chiles, such as Hatch or poblano, seeded and cut into large diced pieces, or one 4-ounce can diced green chiles
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup frozen roasted corn kernels with Cotija, or plain frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 1/2 cups crema, crème fraiche or sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cotija cheese, crumbled, for garnish
Salsa, for garnish
Flour tortillas, warmed, for serving
Fit the food processor with its steel blade. With the machine running, drop the garlic cloves through the feed tube and process until the garlic is minced.
Stop the machine. Add the onion and bell pepper to the food processor’s work bowl. Pulse until the onion and pepper are coarsely chopped. Transfer the chopped vegetables to a bowl. Cut the chicken thighs into large chunks and place them in the food processor’s work bowl. Pulse two to three times, or until the chicken is coarsely chopped.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and when it becomes fragrant, add the garlic, chopped onion, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is white and mostly cooked, an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, chiles, thyme and cumin. Stir in the roasted corn kernels. (If using thawed frozen corn, char a cup of corn kernels first in a skillet with a tablespoon of oil over high heat, stirring frequently. Some kernels should have black edges.) Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.
Move the pot off heat and stir in the crema or sour cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with warm flour tortillas, offering crumbled Cotija cheese and salsa for diners to garnish their own servings.