Vegetable. Condiment. Obsession.
And a surprisingly good wine-pairing partner.
Yes, this is a blog about New Mexico’s favorite food: the chile pepper.
I don’t do “spicy” as a general rule — not because I don’t like the flavor or the “kick,” but rather because my stomach doesn’t handle that “kick” as well as it once did.
So when visiting Albuquerque a few years ago, I wasn’t planning to seek out chile pepper-infused dishes. Only one problem: It’s virtually impossible to avoid them.
Those peppers are used to pump up the flavor of everything from snacks (green chile queso and chips) to appetizers (Southwest rolls with adobo chicken, avocado, cheddar Jack, roasted corn, black beans and green chiles), and from sandwiches (a Philly cheesesteak with grilled steak, caramelized onions, green chiles and cheese fondue) to main courses (pozolo verde with tender pork, hominy, green chiles, cilantro and lime).
And that’s just at one of the local bowling centers!
But perhaps the most coveted guilty pleasure among New Mexico residents, as well as visitors to the “Land of Enchantment,” is the green chile cheeseburger. There’s even a “trail” — much like the trails we follow in wine country — devoted to it.
Although chile peppers enjoy a wide spectrum of “hotness,” the most common varieties found in New Mexico are on the tamer side. And those that add flavor rather than pure heat can be quite wine-friendly.
To mitigate the heat, wines with a touch of sweetness can actually heighten the flavor of the chile. Good choices can include Moscato, Riesling and Gewurztraminer with a residual sugar level around 1.5-2 percent.
The wine choices need not be limited to semi-sweet whites, however. Some dry reds also can work nicely, as long as they are balanced and showcase plenty of cherry and berry fruit flavor. One variety that several Albuquerque restaurants pair with their chile pepper-infused cuisine is Malbec.
According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who eat chile peppers weekly are 40% less likely to die of a heart attack, and 23% more likely to outlive those who don’t.
No wonder my better half has so many elderly aunts and uncles who are still going strong… living in various parts of New Mexico.
Vegetable. Condiment. Obsession. Wine-pairing partner. Life extender.
It’s obviously time to add some more green chile peppers to my diet… especially since I don’t have to give up wine to do it!