Three Sisters Green Chile Stew

Blue skies, chilly air and the pungent scent of pinon fires …

Just returned from a week in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, and my second home, which I miss often here in the wonderful but soggy Northwest.  It was soooo lovely to have a few days of dear friends, cold, crisp high desert air, breathtaking snow on the mountains, and the most incredible skies, which will never stop amazing me.  New Mexico is where I did my residency, and I will always associate its rugged, strange, sometimes brutal beauty with the exhilaration and struggle of becoming a doctor.  It’s always good to revisit those places that have been the crucibles of our lives, no?  I find that I need those touchstones to remember who I am.  Foods do the same.  One bite of a familiar food anchors body and soul in a way nothing else quite can.  And the good thing is that while we may not be able to visit the places or people for which we long, we can always prepare the meals that bring us back to them.

Prickly pear cactus — another healthy (and beautiful!) Southwestern food.

I remember the first time someone made green chile stew for me on an overcast winter day many years ago in a adobe church refashioned as an exquisite home.  I had never even heard of green chile then, and the stew was a revelation — it was simple, made with chiles, potatoes, onions and pork.  I’ve had numerous versions since, and after living in Santa Fe for several years, attempted my own with some trepidation. (Green chile stew is to New Mexicans what clam chowder is to New Englanders — it had better be done right!)  Well … here is my adaptation that I like to make when I have a post-holiday turkey carcass to deal with.  It’s also an easy meal to make with a rotisserie chicken.  I pull the meat off and use the carcass to make broth.  This stew is filled out with the indigenous American triad of corn, squash and beans, known as the “Three Sisters” — of which I spoke in last week’s post.  It makes for an extra-hearty stew with a spicy kick that is great to brighten up damp, cold, or snowy dark days.  It gets better with a few days in the fridge as the flavors meld and is perfect to freeze for lunches.  It also makes a wonderful (and easy!) main dish for a holiday dinner party, served with cornbread and green salad.  Check out a great cornbread recipe on my old blog, here:

Look for Hatch green chile in the freezer section …

THREE SISTERS GREEN CHILE STEW:  (The amounts of ingredients here are flexible depending on how much you want to make.  This is a recipe that can easily be stretched for a crowd.)

  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 8 (or more!) cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried epazote (delicious, if you can find it) or oregano
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups roasted green chile, seeded and chopped (Frozen NM green chile is widely available — if you can’t find it, you can make this with a combination of stove top roasted bell peppers and canned chiles … it will taste great, but it won’t be green chile stew!)
  • 1-2 16 oz. cans kidney or pinto beans  (or 1-2 cups dried beans, cooked and drained)
  • One winter squash, cut into bite sized chunks (frozen is okay or look for pre-cut bags in the store if you’re in a hurry)
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 large bunch cilantro
  • olive oil
  • One roast chicken or leftover turkey carcass with some meat on it (You want several cups of shredded meat)
  • 2-3 quarts broth — either homemade from the carcass or store bought (you can easily make this vegetarian by substituting veggie broth and 1 lb tofu, diced and added at the end with the beans)
  • avocado slices, lime wedges, sour cream or yogurt to serve
Ready to be packaged up for a week of lunches that will keep me dreaming of New Mex…

Chop onion and garlic, and saute in a bit of olive oil until soft.  Add cumin and epazote/oregano, and toss a few times.  Add broth, tomatoes, chicken/turkey scraps, chile, beans, and squash.  Start with just enough broth to cover everything, and add more as needed.  Simmer until squash is tender.  If you want a thicker, more “stew-like”consistency as opposed to a soup, add a 1/4 cup of flour of your choice (I use arrowroot) to a cup of broth in a separate small frying pan — stir over low heat until you have a smooth, thick paste — a roux.  Add this mixture to the pot and simmer another few minutes.  This will thicken the broth.  Now add corn and chopped cilantro, and remove from heat.  Taste and add salt and more spices to taste.

Until next time … (thanks to Arooj Hyat for this photo of Taos Pueblo on a visit we made one snowy November day …)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kimberly (Bickmore) Smallidge says:

    “One bite of a familiar food anchors body and soul in a way nothing else quite can. And the good thing is that while we may not be able to visit the places or people for which we long, we can always prepare the meals that bring us back to them.” Ah, such truth…as I sit here indulging in a Swedish roll left over from our Thanksgiving feast that gives me the tangible tie I crave to my mother, her mother, and even her mother’s mother. The whole process of making them, baking them, sharing them and eating them gives me fulfillment. You always had a way with words Jenny. I am glad I discovered this blog. ~Kim


    1. So very happy to hear from you,Kim. I love hearing about other people’s family recipes. Are you still in Maine? Maybe someday when I’m in the hood we can do a blog post about your Swedish roll 🙂 Happy Holidays & love from the west coast xo


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