This recipe, an adaptation of stuffed green bell peppers, combines many Southwestern regional ingredients. It is a favorite of my cooking class students in Santa Fe, as well as the many guests for whom I have prepared this dish. The fresh tomatoes in the purée, which I grow myself or buy at the farmers market when they are in season, are what make this dish so delicious. I’ve made this tomato purée with fresh Roma tomatoes, red plum tomatoes, little yellow pear and green and red zebra tomatoes — all of which taste wonderful. For a spicier flavor, leave the stuffed chiles in the oven a bit longer.
Lamb-Stuffed Green Chiles
Serves 6 as an entrée or 12 as an appetizer
12 firm, mild New Mexico green chiles
(if you want no heat at all, use an Italian red sweet pepper)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2/3 cup finely chopped sweet white onions
1-1/2 pounds ground locally raised lamb
1 cup adobe (or other) bread crumbs*
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Sour cream for serving (optional)
Fresh Tomato Purée
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 small sweet white onion, chopped
1-1/4 pounds local organic tomatoes, coarsely chopped
To make the stuffed chiles:Fire roast, peel and seed the chiles, keeping them whole for stuffing. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions about 4 minutes, or until translucent. Add the ground lamb and brown for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, and then mash into small pieces with a slotted spoon or potato masher. Drain off any excess fat and add the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs. Stir. Add the bread crumbs and stir again. Decrease the heat and simmer another 5 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, you may need to add some homemade stock or water so the stuffing is moist enough to slip easily inside each chile. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Slice the chiles lengthwise, spread them open on a work surface and generously stuff each chile with the lamb mixture. Place the stuffed chiles on an oiled baking pan with the open side down and set aside. The chiles will be reheated right before they are served. The longer they stay in the oven, the more the chile flavor will penetrate the lamb mixture.
To make the tomato purée:Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the tomatoes and cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the excess liquid evaporates. The sauce will reduce and thicken. At this point you can put the sauce into a blender and process until smooth. You can either run the sauce through a fine sieve to remove any of the skins that are not blended or you can serve the sauce as it is. (Most of the students in my cooking classes prefer this sauce in its more rustic state.) Set aside.
To finish the dish:Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the stuffed chiles in the baking dish in the oven and heat until hot, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately topped with the tomato purée. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.
*Adobe bread is yeasted oven bread made in New Mexico by many of the Puebloan Indians. If you cannot get adobe bread, you can use any non-sourdough yeasted bread to make these bread crumbs. To make the crumbs, use day-old bread that has hardened or fresh bread that has been toasted in the oven. Place in a food processor and process until the bread crumbs are finely ground without being completely ground into a powder. The peppers are not large and I don’t want bread crumbs too large for the chiles. My rule for bread crumbs: The smaller the object to be stuffed, the smaller the bread crumb.