Yesterday at work I was speaking with one of my more favorite co-workers about chiles.  She had lived in New Mexico – I had eaten chiles in New Mexico – she had just received a new shipment of chiles from New Mexico.  She said she’d bring me a few in.  We’re exciting people at work!

And today, she did!

The whole conversattion brought back some very hazy memories of a vacation back in the ’70s.  I think this was the same trip that I stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, but since illicit drugs and lots of alcohol were involved, I’m not positively positive about anything.  Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

One thing I do remember is being out in the middle of nowhere and being at a little cantina in New Mexico.  We were on our way to Juarez, so it probably was Hatch – or at least in the Hatch Valley.  It was pretty much a dive, but they were roasting chiles and offering them for sale – maybe a dime a piece – maybe not that much.  I’ve always enjoyed my chiles but even in California back then, chiles other than jalapeños weren’t widely available except from Latino grocers.

So there we are in this little dive bar and they’re offering fresh, fire-roasted green chiles.  They were roasting them in this wire-drum contraption that looked like a Bingo spinner.  It sat over a hot, smokey wood fire.

They were  putting the whole chile in their mouth, and then with a quick yank, pulled out the stem and the seed pod, munching on the chile.  It looked easy – it always looks easy – but after only a couple of mishaps, I was eating chiles like a native.  I’m sure the beer and tequila helped.

I’m also pretty sure this was the first time I ever had a fire-roasted pepper of any sort.   And the flavor was remarkably like the peppers we had tonight.  The originals were hotter, probably due to the amount of seeds I was actually eating, and not as sweet.  The word I was first thinking of was “refined”.  I think these have probably been cultivated to be a bit smoother, over-all.  Refined in a good way.  Courvoisier vs brandy.

Fast-forward to a couple of hours ago, and I have maybe 8 or 10 roasted peppers, rapidly thawing in their baggie.  I peeled them, seeded them, and then started playing!

I knew I wanted the peppers to take center stage, so no tomatoes were allowed in the dish.  I’d save them for the ‘polenta’.

Chicken and Green Chiles

  • 8 or so roasted green chiles, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 cup shredded jack cheese
  • salt, to taste

Wilt onion and yellow pepper in a splash of oil.  Add diced chicken and cook.  Add chiles and spices.

Add corn.  Check for salt and add, if necessary.

Stir in cheese, heat, and serve over Red Polenta.

Red Polenta is the easiest thing in the world.

Red Polenta

  • 1 cup prepared salsa (your choice)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup corn meal

Mix water and salsa in saucepan and bring to boil.  Gradually stir in corn meal.  Cook about 20 minutes or per package instructions.

To serve, spread polenta on a plate and top with chicken-chile mixture.


Victor was in and out of the kitchen marveling at the aromas.  Today was his turn to feel tired and irritable after not sleeping last night, and he apologized as we sat down, asking me not to be offended if he only ate a bit.

He cleaned his plate.

And what a fun ride down Memory Lane.  It really is nothing short of amazing that I am alive, today.