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Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Chili pepper fiesta continues: cheese stuffed chilies in green rice

Hatch chilies stuffed with fontina cheese and cooked in rice with parsley sauce

This is from my mom's Diana Kennedy cookbook from the 70's (aka the family Bible). If I get time tomorrow I'll post the recipe separately.

Stuffing the chilies got complicated. Kennedy mentions tying the chilies with twine if you've split them. I had split most of my chilies while cleaning the seeds out, so I tried this. It was madness, and it took a long time. It also did not keep the cheese from seeping out -- but no matter, the dish was still delicious. I did manage to keep one chili intact and it was easier to stuff. If I make this again I won't bother removing the seeds since these chilies aren't hot anyway.

Kennedy calls for cheddar, but I used fontina for its wonderfully stable melting properties. It melts easily and stays gooey after it cooks. Cheddar, on the other hand, will melt well enough but then often separates after it cools. I think the mild, nutty flavor of fontina works well with this dish, though I wouldn't mind experimenting by combining other, more flavorful cheeses.

This is a delicious way to prepare rice even if you don't use the chilies. You cook the rice in hot oil until the rice turns golden. Then you add a puree of parsley, onions and garlic. After a few minutes you add milk, not water. It makes for a rich, flavorful rice dish, truly unlike anything I remember ever tasting in Mexico -- or anywhere.

My sister sent me some more information about Hatch chilies from her Chicano studies course anthology. Apparently chilies are as sensitive to terroir as wine grapes are. And Hatch chilies, themselves a Southwestern sensation, are actually grown in Hatch, New Mexico (in the southern region of the state). In fact, Hatch hosts a chili pepper festival every Labor Day Weekend.

Chili peppers have been growing in New Mexico for at least 400 years. According to Paul Borsland, chili pepper grower and University of New Mexico...something (article gave his UNM title as "guru"), "There is something about New Mexico's high altitude, warm days, cool nights and intense light that gives ours a distinctive full chili flavor and tolerable heat."

According to older farmers, chilies take on flavor depending on the mood of the planter. If the planter is in a particularly angry mood, the chilies will be especially hot.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Mmm, Hatch chiles. So yummy, and so little-known in most of the U.S. We New Mexicans also swear by Hatch onions, which we consider to be sweeter and more delicious than Vidalias.