The New Mexican state bird is the roadrunner. The state flower is the yucca. The state insect, decided after what should have been a well funded lobbying effort, is the tarantula hawk wasp. And New Mexico has the distinction of being the only state which has an official state question: Red or green? What’s at issue is chile sauce. Go to Albuquerque, the heart of chile country, and everywhere you eat, you will be asked the state question. Regardless if you pick red or you pick green, you will likely be getting a sauce made of the Hatch chile, a long, curvy peppers with mild or moderate heat named after the New Mexico town famous for growing them.
The distinction between red and green is not in the pepper, its in the preparation. There are as many variations of chile sauce as there are cooks, but the basic procedures for green and red are simple. For green chile sauce, the unripe peppers are roasted and after that chopped. Theyre cooked with onion and garlic, simmered in broth thickened with a little flour, and after that pureed into sauce. Some cooks add oregano, cumin or coriander, and some change it up with tomatillos or cilantro. For red chile sauce, the peppers are permitted to ripen and are then dried.
The sauce is made by rehydrating the peppers and passing them with seasoningsoregano and garlic are traditional, but you will locate everything from cumin to cloves. Hatch pepper season runs from late July to August, and you can get lucky and find them in your supermarket. Theres a whole spectrum of peppers you may use to make New Mexican style red or green chile sauce. For green, look for Anaheim, Cubanelle, or Poblano. For red, look for Ancho secco, Guajillo, or Pasilla.
Cant find any of these? Use what you can find. And do not worry that you are sacrificing authenticitywhats authentic is letting the flavour of the chile pepper shine through. Experiment with red and green at home so you will be ready with your answer whenever you visit New Mexico.