I love New Mexico. Anyone who knows me well knows that, and I try to visit the Land of Enchantment as often as possible, which ends up being about once a year. I even have a T-shirt — created by my sister, Theresa, who also loves New Mexico — that says, “I’m a better version of myself in New Mexico.”
And it’s true. I am.
Every time I visit, which has been about 14 times over the past 10 years, I come back renewed in spirit and with all sorts of ideas. I return home determined to finish whatever ambitious writing project I’m working on or create the folk art masterpiece that’s been lolling around in my head for months.
Sometimes the feeling lasts; sometimes it doesn’t. OK, oftentimes it doesn’t. Life gets in the way and those projects take the back burner until my next trip to New Mexico, when I’ll dream big dreams and come home with big plans.
One thing that has stuck around between trips is my love for New Mexican cuisine, particularly green chile stew, a popular dish in New Mexico. The spicy, slow-cooked concoction of green chiles, potatoes and pork is one of my favorite meals.
In fact, I’m eating it right now. As I write this blog post. Yes, I really am.
Hatch, N.M., is known as the green chile capital of the world. The small, southern New Mexico village also is home to the Hatch Chile Festival, held each Labor Day weekend. I haven’t been to the festival yet, but it’s definitely on the bucket list.
So, is seeing the burning of Zozobra, which takes place on the same weekend in Santa Fe, four hours to the north. Santa Feans have been burning Zozobra — also called “Old Man Gloom” — since 1924.
It’s not only a huge party, but a time to symbolically set fire to the worries and hardships of the past year. You can read all about the history of Zozobra here. After all, this post is about stew.
My recipe for green chile stew — there are many — is from Ramona’s Restaurant in Alamogordo, N.M.
While visiting New Mexico with husband John and his parents in 2006, we went to White Sands National Monument, an otherworldly place near Alamogordo. White Sands is a massive gypsum dune, with snow-white sand nearly as far as the eye can see. It’s pretty amazing.
Afterward, we went to this nondescript diner called Ramona’s. There, I ordered my first bowl of green chile stew and it was a revelation.
For the rest of the trip, I ordered green chile stew every time it was on the menu. At the end of the week, I declared Ramona’s my favorite. And when I got home, I called the restaurant and they gave me the recipe.
Ramona’s closed some time ago, but because I was lucky enough to snag the recipe beforehand, I still make her green chile stew several times a year. Now, you can make it, too. Enjoy!
Ramona’s Green Chile Stew
1 pound pork (loin, roast, chops, boneless ribs, etc.), cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large cloves garlic, pressed/minced (or 1 1/2 tsp. jarred, minced garlic)
1 T. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white pepper
16 oz. diced green chiles (mild, medium, hot or a mix)
4 cups of diced potatoes (I like to use red or Yukon gold – no need to peel)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Put all ingredients in a good-sized stock pot or Dutch oven. Cook until potatoes are soft.
Hints: Sometimes, I use ground pork instead. If going that route, brown and drain the pork before adding the other ingredients to the pot. Also, if doubling the recipe, there’s no need to double the salt. Makes about four, meal-sized servings, and it’s great with piping-hot sopapillas or cornbread.