It’s that special, spicy, fragrant, tortuously fleeting time of year again: Hatch chile season! Your local grocers are likely overflowing with Hatch, New Mexico’s iconic peppers, the earthy, deeply savory green chiles we all love turning into rellenos, enchiladas, burger toppers, mac and cheese mix-ins, cornbread boosters and more.
This year, Bashas’ sent us a media packet and asked us to take part in its #HatchatHome challenge, which encourages Arizona home cooks to post their favorite Hatch chile dishes on their social media feeds for a chance to win cooking supplies and grocery gift cards. The challenge may be over, but Hatch season is not, so get thee to Bashas’ and get cooking!
As PHOENIX’s most prolific and obsessive home cook, I wanted to do more than post a green chile dish I made using someone else’s recipe. I wanted to develop my own recipe showcasing these vegetal wonders. I decided to undertake a Southwestern spin on dirty rice, a beloved dish in my Cajun French family. I make a huge batch of it every year as my holiday gifts for my colleagues.
Fear not, germophobes: The rice is not actually dirty. It earned its moniker because the white rice in the dish gets “dirty” when it’s mixed with bits of meat (traditionally livers, gizzards, offal and any bits of meat country cooks could scrounge; my family has modernized it with a blend of ground meats easily found at mainstream grocery stores), onions, green bell peppers and celery (in some families; mine skips it), seasoned with cayenne, black pepper and/or a Creole seasoning mix. As with most Southern classics, dirty rice came about as a result of the culinary ingenuity of slaves, who took meat and veggie scraps and turned them into a stunningly rich, satisfying and delicious dish.
To introduce the flavors of the Southwest, I took my late MawMaw’s (grandma’s) dirty rice recipe – lovingly handed down to me by the best cook in our family, my Aunt Tammy – and made some strategic swaps. In place of fiery Cajun andouille sausage, I went with spicy Mexican chorizo. Because chorizo is so fatty and yields so much seasoned oil when it is crisped, I skipped the bacon and bacon grease the original dirty rice recipe calls for. Instead of a mix of ground meats, I went with just the chorizo and ground pork, as a nod to green chile pork. I nixed Creole seasoning and subbed pleasantly musty cumin. I swapped cilantro for parsley, but kept the generous amount of green onion. Most importantly, I traded roasted Hatch green chiles for the green bell pepper.
Use the following recipe as a guideline, tweaking it to suit your taste. My result was delectable, but it was too spicy for me. (Despite my Cajun ancestry, I have the heat tolerance of a toddler.) My partner said it was a little milder than a “medium” spice level at a Thai restaurant. I dropped some off for a friend who said he could tolerate a lot more spice in it. You know your tongue best – adjust the number of chiles accordingly. You can also easily make this vegetarian or vegan with simple swaps. I make a vegetarian version of the regular dirty rice for two of my colleagues each year. Just add more fat (butter, oil or plant-based butter) and adjust the seasoning as needed.
If you make it, post your photos on Instagram and tag us (@phxmagazine)! We’d love to see and share your creations. Happy cooking!
Southwestern Dirty Rice
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound Mexican chorizo
- 1 big onion or 2 medium ones (yellow or white, preferably), chopped to your desired size
- 4-5 roasted Hatch green chiles, chopped (finely or roughly, depending on what you like)
- 1-2 teaspoons ground cumin, to taste
- 3 cups stock of your choice (I use homemade chicken stock, but have used chicken bouillon cubes in a pinch; you could also use veggie stock or even water)
- 4 cups cooked rice of your choice
- 1 whole bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
- Hot sauce and fresh lime wedges to garnish, optional
- Brown the ground pork in a large pot on medium heat and set aside. Brown/crisp the Mexican chorizo and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to low and add a bit of butter or splash of neutral oil to the pot. Add onions (I like to purée mine so the onion juices permeate everything, but you can keep them in a chunky dice or finely chop them, whatever you like best) and cook for 10 minutes or so, until softened and golden. Add the green chiles and cook for another five minutes or so. If it looks dry, add a bit more butter or oil.
- Add cumin and let it “bloom” in the veggies and fat for a couple of minutes. Add chicken stock and stir to combine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes so everything incorporates and the sauce reduces a bit.
- Add rice and fresh herbs and stir to combine. It’s OK if it’s a little soupy – the liquid will continue to be absorbed by the rice. Serve with your favorite hot sauce and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, if desired. This makes a LOT, but it’s great to share in care packages and it also freezes quite well.
Photos by Leah LeMoine and Alyssa Jordan