Routt County CSU Extension: Time for Colorado green chilies
We talk about seasons in Steamboat — ski season, mud season and one of my favorites, green chile season. As our seasons shift and nighttime temperatures cool, green chilies heat up local menus and roadside stands. Green chilies are a hot commodity in Colorado, because they contribute unrivaled character to cuisines, making them a mountain town mainstay this time of year.
With history as rich as their flavor, green chilies have been a Colorado cooking classic for decades. Hatch green chilies — the head honcho of green chilies, with a heritage rooted in New Mexico — are famous in Colorado for blanketing burgers, enrobing enchiladas and spicing-up salsas. However, Colorado’s Pueblo green chile is a culinary competitor. Southeastern Colorado’s high elevation, hot summers and cold nights make the Pueblo green chile meatier than others and ideal for roasting.
The combination of heat and sweet make chilies a worthy centerpiece in dishes such as chile verde (green chile stew) and add zing to sauces, corn bread and casseroles. Chilies also add a creative flair to pizza, soup and breakfast dishes and even pair well with Colorado peaches in salsas and marinades.
That fiery flavor also packs healing power. Capsaicin (pronounced cap-SAY-sin) — the compound in chilies responsible for that eye-watering, spicy sensation — gives these vegetables much of their medicinal properties. Capsaicin is used for pain relief and has sparked interest in cancer research. Chilies are also packed with vitamin C, a nutrient that helps your body heal and fight off infection.
Stock up on green chilies before the supply disappears in this month. If you buy fire-roasted chilies, make sure to remove them from plastic bags and refrigerate them in a food-safe container within two hours of roasting to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can make you sick. Chilies should be eaten within two to three days.
You can also roast fresh chilies yourself. If you are using your oven, position a rack four to six inches below your broiler and preheat to high or 450 degrees fahrenheit. Arrange washed and dried chilies in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Place the chilies under the broiler and roast until the skin is blistered (not completely charred). This should take about five minutes. Then, flip the chilies over to blister the other sides. Alternatively, you can roast your chilies with an outdoor grill, gas stove burner or in a cast iron skillet. Next, place the hot chilies in a food-safe plastic bag or bowl, then seal the container for 15 minutes to “sweat” the peel.
Cool the chilies before freezing them. Arrange whole chilies in a single layer on a tray so they do not touch. Freeze until the chilies are frozen solid, then transfer them to a food-safe container. Store the chilies in the freezer for up to a year, and thaw them in the refrigerator before using.
When you are ready to eat, rinse the chilies under running water and rub them gently to remove the blistered outer skin. If the chile heat is humbling, you can remove the seeds and white ribs, which is where most of the capsaicin lives. If you land a feisty chile, grab a glass of milk, which can bind up capsaicin.
At last, the time is ripe to celebrate Colorado culture with Pueblo green chilies.
Kalyn Clemens is completing a master’s degree in human nutrition from Colorado State University and is an intern with CSU Extension in Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
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