When I was asked to write about favorite hearty fall meals, I had just returned from New Mexico where local markets and roadside stands were celebrating a new harvest of chile peppers. Red and Green chile are such a proud New Mexico tradition that the state legislature passed a memorial declaring Red or Green? as the official state question. Since chile (both red and green) is synonymous with breakfast, lunch and dinner in New Mexico, my crowd-pleasing Posole with Red Chile was an obvious choice. As was Hunter’s Stew because it’s so simple to make, delicious and perfect for fall and winter. But what would complete this trifecta? I wanted to include something wonderful in the vegetarian realm…and then the light bulb went off. A ‘must try’ Vegetarian Chili that my sister sent me (which I initially resisted and now love) won the third slot. Don’t be shy…try all three!
Posole with Red Chile and Pork (Traditional New Mexican style)
Posole, a savory stew made with pork and red chile is about as New Mexican as you can get. Traditionally, it’s served at Christmas and is inexpensive to prepare. Posole, golden in color, is similar to hominy. The difference is that posole corn is treated with lime to remove its skin—now a commercial technique that was used by Native Americans centuries ago. In New Mexico, we buy posole frozen in 2 lb bags. This requires rinsing and boiling for about an hour until the kernels “pop”. A quicker alternative is canned hominy if you don’t have access to frozen.
When combined in a savory stew with roasted pork, red chile (whole and ground), garlic and Mexican oregano, the flavors meld into a hearty meal. This recipe is not the traditional offering of having guests put cooked posole in a bowl and then add—to their own taste—red chile, chopped onion, oregano, and fresh lime. Instead, this is a one-pot meal to be enjoyed with flour tortillas or saltines. It’s easy to skip the roasted pork and make this vegetarian or vegan.
Have I seen or tasted a hundred versions of posole? Probably. Posole is meant to be simple, its blandness is enhanced by a homemade rich red chile (in New Mexico we just say chile and don’t call it ‘sauce’).
Cook’s Note: I created my own version with sautéed leeks and shredded pork tenderloin, but I’ve seen every cut of pork used from a roast to pork belly. Instead of water, I use a box each of chicken and beef stock (vegetable stock for vegetarians) and often combine different local varieties of New Mexico red chile.
This traditional dish is a staple at our holiday party where we serve both Posole with Red Chile and my Green Chile Stew. If served on Christmas eve, we’ll also have it for lunch or breakfast on Christmas day. This recipe is perfect from early autumn through winter. It’s definitely cold weather food.
Hunter’s Chicken Stew (Pollo alla cacciatora)
When Spice House General Manager, Chasity Marini, made this for me, I was astounded. Rich and delicious, it is home-cooked comfort food that tastes like Italy to me. Despite living in Italy for years, I had not seen it on a menu there or ever liked Chicken Cacciatore in the U.S.—versions that were consistently watery and bland. Chasity’s recipe is adapted from chef Jamie Oliver. It’s easily assembled, placed in the oven and then left there for two hours. The chicken is so tender it can be cut with a fork; the sauce is a rich reduction of flavor that begs for bread. It’s both hearty and elegant in its simplicity and something I often prepare and effortlessly serve to appreciative guests. It’s the perfect dinner for one, two…or more.
Cook’s Note: Our Bavarian Seasoning lends itself perfectly to any European classic stew that is simmered for hours. Similarly, you can substitute our Mediterranean Lamb Seasoning which is equally wonderful on chicken (grilled or stewed). These handcrafted blends are combined with garlic, bay leaves, and Kosher flake salt.
Ladled onto plates, or large shallow bowls, Chasity serves this with warm crusty bread, torn in chunks from a large round loaf. She is a marvelous cook with great instincts, and she enjoys preparing dinners even after full days managing the Spice House. In honoring her Italian heritage, this Hunter’s Stew exemplifies the best of regional Italian cooking: an uncomplicated combination of simple, quality ingredients prepared for the pleasure of all.
Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potato and Quinoa (surprisingly good)
This hearty chili has plenty of protein and essential fiber, vitamins and minerals while being flavorful and satisfying. It’s a great vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan option, yet I’ve never heard anyone complain about it being meatless. To the contrary, it consistently wins rave reviews.
I must admit that when my sister sent this recipe, I was skeptical. I’ve been making my own crowd-pleasing chili recipes for years yet, despite liking the separate ingredients, the title gave me pause. She insisted it was a surprising ‘must-try’. Since I had friends coming to visit that I knew this would appeal to, I decided to take my sister’s advice. This is truly a new favorite.
Cook’s note: If you’re open to something non-traditional, give this a try. Cubed sweet potato, quinoa and dark beans are a very satisfying combination and a chili that you can kick-up the heat or just enjoy its rich yet mild flavor. The freshly ground cumin used here is a ‘revelation’ and consistently a showstopper when sampled in our stores. Our selection of ground chili blends (choose Mild, Medium or Hot) make this dish very customizable. Our ground Chipotle or Smoked Hot Spanish Paprika will add a dash of smoky heat. Smoked Sweet Spanish Paprika is a perfect choice for a touch of smoke flavor without the heat.
Easy to prepare, it’s always nice to have new recipes that come together easily. This chili offers warmth and also pretty color on a grey day. Its deep red base with complementary sweet potato and optional avocado and cilantro garnish are as pleasing to the palate as the eye. And, this family-friendly meal is ready in under an hour. It’s easy to prepare and get on the table and has an extra advantage—only one pot to clean! Leftovers hold up extremely well too.
Incidentally, this phenomenon (requires only one pot and tastes great the next day) is the same for all three of these hearty fall recipes. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments or questions.
Mari Anixter is Corporate Sales Director for the Spice House. She loves interacting with customers about favorite spices and how to use them. You can find her mostly in Evanston enjoying customer service and introducing our corporate gifts program—whether for the holidays or other events throughout the year.