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Chile
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-09-20 20:21:07 | Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States
Keywords: chile, spicy
This time I won't talk you about a local dish, but about a single ingredient: the chile. No, not the country (I'm not that far South yet), but the vegetable. You'll see it everywhere in New Mexico... and not only in your dish. It's on display everywhere inside and outside of stores, houses, restaurants and hotels. Especially at this time of the year, you'll see strings of chiles called 'ristras' hung everywhere to make them dry, like Europeans do with garlic. Chiles are harvested from August to October in New Mexico... so that's the perfect time to buy them really fresh and dry them to use them all year long.

Those ristras can also be bought in the markets or from local vendors who string them for you. They of course provide a large variety of colours, depending on the peppers chosen, and how far they are along the drying process. It's usually just a series of chiles stringed together with a thread. They are hung outside in the sun or inside near a window to let the sun do the drying work. In a dry climate like here, it will still take a couple of weeks to reach the stage of the second phase of the picture below and they're ready to be used in cooking as is. Add a few more weeks (3rd pane of the photo below) and they're ready to be crushed. If you wanna know how to make a ristra, check out this Youtube video.


But drying chiles isn't the only way to conserve them. You can roast them... usually you'd do that on a BBQ or in the oven... then peel off the top layer of the skin. After that operation, you can freeze them. But that's a long and tedious process if you want to store a large batch for the winter. So, there are roasters available in many parking lots throughout cities and in the country side. They roast a batch in front of you and you can leave with your warm roasted chiles, as in the picture below. The chiles are farm-fresh of course... and you can easily spot trucks on the road with large jute bags through which you can see spots of green and red.

I had the chance to talk to such roaster here in Santa Fe. Just at his small location, he had 8 or 10 propane roasters to be able to serve clients coming by. It's very a very popular service in cities... where people don't have the time to do a large batch at home. In those parking roasters, you can have a large basket of chiles freshly roasted just for you, in about 10-15 minutes. I tasted the final product and it's extremely tasty.


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