Green Chile Cheeseburgers (and Other Wonderful Things in New Mexico)
I lived 45 years without knowing there was such a thing as a green chile cheeseburger. Then I went to New Mexico and my world changed.
A quick word on spelling. In most of America, this spicy pepper is a “chili” with one L. In British English, it’s a “chilli” with two Ls. Due to Spanish influence in the southwestern United States, the spelling in that part of the world is “chile” — one L, one I, one E. (Learn more on merriam-webster.com.) Confusing, I know.
For the purposes of this post I’m going to use the southwestern American (i.e. Spanish) spelling of “chile” because that’s how it appears everywhere in New Mexico.
The New Mexico Green Chile
Now, some more information on the pepper itself. New Mexico chiles are not like jalapeños or habaneros or any other hot chiles I’ve eaten before. New Mexico chiles are bigger and just plain better, with a half-spicy, half-tangy flavor that I could easily eat in every meal for the rest of my life.
When New Mexico chiles are harvested earlier, they’re green, and when they’re harvested later, they’re red. The red and green chiles have slightly different flavors, and New Mexican diners are often offered a choice of red or green sauce on local dishes. The green seems to be more popular.
I was in northern New Mexico for five days (one day in Taos and four days in Santa Fe), and the trip quickly became a quest to eat green chiles on/in as many different foods as possible. I ordered green chile in burritos, stews, roast beef sandwiches, waffle fries, croissants, and (of course) cheeseburgers. I ate green chile cooked into sausages, roasted into pistachio nuts, and as a topping on chile con carne and “Frito pie” — a supremely unhealthy casserole made with ground beef, cheese, and Frito corn chips.
I kept meaning to try red chile but could never bring myself to pass up the green. It was that good.
Other Nice Things in New Mexico
I’ve now written 600 words glorifying green chiles and haven’t told you anything else about New Mexico yet. Before you stop reading, here are a few other things I loved about this funky southwestern state.
1) Adobe Churches
Adobe is the most common building material in New Mexico. I think adobe buildings are so beautiful, especially the churches.