My New Mexican grandmother and my mother both made versions of this chile when I was growing up. Despite the long ingredient list, it is truly a chile that can be put together in a hurry -- there are no spices to grind, no chiles to soak or pulverize, no tomatoes to add. Many of the ingredients (other than perhaps the red chile powder) can easily be found at any supermarket. I have tried to stay close to the recipe's roots but I have adapted it for more modern tastes. I roast the bell peppers rather than sauteing them with the onions to bring out their smoky, sweet flavor. I use ground bison rather ground beef for a slightly more gamey flavor. I cook my own beans because the broth that they cook in is a wonderful addition to the chile. Time-harried cooks can use canned beans and add beef or chicken broth instead. The main flavoring ingredient is pure New Mexican red chile powder (NOT the chili spice). It comes in medium-hot and mild versions. I like to mix the two. To enhance the flavor of the chile powder, I toast it in a dry skillet and add a small amount of ancho chile powder for sweetness.
This chile can be served as is -- as a stew or a thick soup or even a burrito filling. It is warming and comforting on a cold, winter evening. But I wanted to elevate this chile to party fare, so I went in a fusion direction, and I have to say that I was both surprised and pleased with the results. I created a southwestern-inspired "pesto" to serve as an accompaniment to the chile. This is not your typical pesto -- it has a thick, chunky texture and there is no cheese added to it. But it has a lovely nutty flavor (all those pumpkin seeds). It also gets a little sharpness from the raw garlic, a fresh hint of citrus from the lime zest, and a generous amount of cilantro adds a herby, vibrant note. These flavors really compliment the earthy., rustic red chile. I like to serve this chile on little bites of crisp tostadas, with a tiny spoonful of pesto on top. Some chopped tomato, avocado and grated cheese are also nice additions. And don't forget some minced pickled jalapeno. They add a jolt of heat for those of us who like our chile spicy.