A reliable sign that it is officially Fall (besides looking at a calendar and the appearance of pumpkin spice flavored everything) is when the chili crop is ready. There are roasting stands for green chili, and bushels and ristras (chili tied up in string) of the red.
So this is what they look like when they are fresh.
And this is what they look like in a dried ristra. Well, what happens next? To use this for more than decoration, one removes the stem and seeds, boils them for a bit in some water, whizzes them up in a blender, strains the pulp, and uses this to make a pot of red chili (or one starts with the frozen pulp from the grocery store which is much easier).
And voila, a pot of New Mexico Red Chili. Actually, this one is not very traditional, because it contains beans. A traditionalist would serve the red chili and beans separately, so that one can put together a bowl to one’s taste. But I made this particular pot for a reason.
My group of ladies made pots of chili of varying kinds as part of a charity fundraiser (mine is the puny pot on the end) held in a member’s empty barn. I did try to make this a mild batch, but it didn’t taste right to me until it was fairly spicy (oops). And the chilis ranged from hotter than mine, to one without any spice (I don’t know if one could even rightly call this chili).
And here is a very traditional recipe, from a cookbook published in 1971 by M’s favorite restaurant in Mesilla, NM. And what I made was somewhat similar.
The mild-ish was a lie.
But a good time was had by all on a perfect Autumn day, trying all the variations and permutations of this humble dish.