Red chile sundae. Illustration by Chris Philpot.
The Santa Fe School of Cooking’s red chile bacon has become almost iconic in the 25 years since James Beard Award–winning cookbook author and cooking instructor Cheryl Alters Jamison created the recipe for a red chile, honey, and jalapeño mustard glaze. It adds a sweet kick to chicken or pork chops, but garners another layer of flavor with salty bacon. “You really appreciate the chile,” says Director of Operations Nicole Ammerman, who recommends putting a Southwestern twist on your next BLT. It’s also a centerpiece of the school’s annual breakfast event. “We try to mix up the menu, but every year everybody’s like, ‘You are doing the chile bacon, right?’ ”
Sierra Blanca Brewing Company’s Green Chile Cerveza is no gimmick brew. The three-time gold medalist at Oregon’s Best of Craft Beer Awards is a seriously good beer. Launched in 2007, the American lager spends at least seven days filtered through three-foot tea bags filled with roasted Big Jim chiles to produce its distinctive flavor. It’s corn-based (think Heileman’s Old Style), which plays well off the smoky chiles, and even finds its way into a few of the Moriarty brewpub’s recipes, says owner and brewer Rich Weber. “It’s not about the heat,” he says. “There’s a lot of aroma and a nice chile flavor.”
When Luis Flores came home to join the family business about 15 years ago, he had a plan to get Las Cruces Candy Company products into gift shops and stores throughout New Mexico and beyond. He wanted to expand on what his confectioner parents started in El Paso in 1974. The key to that growth? Chile brittle. Today, Flores starts work at 2 a.m. to beat the heat and crafts 16 brittle combinations, such as red chile pistachio (his favorite), habanero pecan, piñon, and even a new lavender pecan. But the bestseller remains the green chile pecan. “The chile flavor comes after the sweetness,” says Flores, who also sells at the Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces. “At first it’s subtle, but it builds up.”
As a chef, Joel Coleman wanted a special chile for La Lecheria’s Green Chile Ice Cream. Craving something with big flavor but mild heat, he landed upon the NuMex Joe E. Parker from La Ciénega’s Green Tractor Farm to complement the other organic ingredients (egg yolks, sugar, and Organic Valley milk and cream). “This one has a fruity-forward note that worked well with ice cream,” says Coleman, who is also chef and co-owner of Santa Fe’s Fire & Hops gastropub. Others agree. The Santa Fe shop’s green chile flavor was featured on Cooking Channel’s Man v. Food. “People don’t expect it to be good,” he says. “Then they try it and are like, ‘Oh, that’s really good.’ ”
Read more from our "Ultimate Guide to New Mexico Chile"
The Mystery of Big Jim
A 10-year effort to restore one of New Mexico’s most distinctive chiles underscores how memory thrives in our taste buds.
José Gonzalez: The Allure of Chile Farming
Although he's tried other jobs, José Gonzalez keeps coming back to the farm where his family grows chiles, corn, beans and more.
The Ultimate New Mexico Chile Tasting Guide
We asked two experts to describe the flavors of New Mexico’s best chile varieties.
More Than Just Salsa
Capsaicin does more than make chile hot, it is used in medicinal creams, bear repellent and in foods to give captive birds and fish a reddish hue.
The Making of Chile U
One of the only scientific institutions devoted to a so-called condiment flourishes in Las Cruces.
Matt Romero: The Chile Roaster
Rooted in family history, Matt Romero brings that heavenly scent and his special flair to the Santa Fe Farmers' Market.
Rooted in Native Soil
Chile holds a very special place in the traditional foods of Southwest tribes.
Nick Maryol: Feeding the Soul
The owner of Santa Fe's Tia Sophia's, Nick Maryol understands how food creates ties to our families, our history and our culture.
Take Your Pick
At Big Jim Farms, in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, you can hand pick your chiles right from the field.
Danise Coon: Researching New Varieties
With roots on the farm, Danise Coon helps develop new varieties at the Chile Pepper Institute.