Wait, what was that? Green chili with lamb? Anyone who knows anything about that wonderful concoction known as green chili (or chili verde) knows that it is prepared with pork. Just ask anyone from Colorado or New Mexico, and they will tell you so. But the Sakhar aren’t from Colorado or New Mexico, they’re from Awan, and they don’t raise pigs; they raise sheep. Besides, I love lamb. It has chutzpah, flavor-wise that is.
When I first conceived of Sakhara, the tribal land of the Sakhar, I thought of it as New Mexico meets Italy, two places that hold a special place in my heart. When I went to Italy shortly after college, I was swept up by the food culture and the sense of history so palpable on the streets of its cities. While New Mexico differs from Italy in many ways, it too has a strong, unique food culture and history. New Mexico is also breathtaking; it’s called the “Land of Enchantment” for good reason. On a personal note, Alan and I became engaged in Taos, New Mexico, and we returned there for our honeymoon.
Because New Mexico and its food, especially green chili, holds a special place in our hearts, I knew that the Sakhar had to have a version of their own, with a few changes of course. Specifically, we add mushrooms and black beans, which along with the lamb, bring a depth of flavor to the dish. We also use amaranth flour and a gluten-free beer to make it gluten-free. Unlike chili con carne, green chili features the chile rather than the meat. The meat brings flavor of course, but the dish is about the chiles. We use medium and hot New Mexican chiles from Hatch, NM.
1/2 pound Black Beans
1 medium onion- quartered
1-2 T olive oil
2 pounds boneless leg of lamb cut into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1 medium onion- diced
6 cloves garlic- diced
2-3 pounds green chilies- roasted, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 t cumin
2 t coriander
1 T sage
1 T marjoram
1 T thyme
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 pound mushrooms- sliced
1 gluten-free beer
1-2 cups mushroom stock (can use beef or vegetable stock)
2-3 T fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1. For 1/2 pound of dry beans, rinse, sort, and soak overnight in about 3-4 cups of cold water. Or, for a quick soak, add 3-4 cups of hot water to the beans, bring to a boil, and boil for two minutes. Let stand for one hour, drain water, and rinse the beans.
2. In a large pot, add beans to 3 cups of water. Add quartered onion to pot. Cover pot and simmer for 1 – 1 ½ hours or until the beans are tender but not too soft. Drain beans and set aside, reserving about half of the cooking liquid.
We try to by Hatch green chiles in season, during August, at Whole Foods or at farmers markets and street fairs here in Portland. But they can also be bought at other times of the year online from several sources by searching for Hatch Green Chiles. We order from New Mexico Catalog. These will be pre-roasted. All you need to do is rub off the skin, which will come off easily, and remove the seeds. Once roasted, you can freeze the chiles for up to two years.
Roasting chiles if bought fresh
1. Rub the chiles with oil and throw on a grill (or roast in a 450°F oven). Turn frequently and roast until the chiles get charred and blistered all over.
2. Place the chiles in a large bowl and cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to cool.
3. When cool, cut off the end of the chiles and peel off the skin, which should come off easily. (You may wish to wear food handling gloves so you don’t get the chili oils on your skin). Remove seeds. Note: Do not rinse the chiles. This will wash away all flavor.
1. Toss the cubes of lamb in the amaranth flour. Add olive oil to a hot pot and sear meat in batches so as to not crowd the pan. Set aside each batch and add oil to pot as needed. When finished, remove all meat from the pot and set aside.
2. Add more oil to the pot. Sweat onion at low/medium heat until golden brown.
3. Add garlic and chiles. Sweat for several minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, mushrooms, spices and herbs. Stir well.
5. Add beer. Scrape bottom of pan to loosen any bits that have stuck, and then add one cup of mushroom stock.
6. Return the meat to the pot. Bring it up to a low boil, and then turn down the heat to a low simmer. Cover and simmer for about two hours or until the meat is tender. Stir from time to time. Add more mushroom stock as needed.
7. Stir the beans into the pot. If the chili needs more liquid, add some of the reserved bean cooking liquid or more mushroom stock.
8. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and add some freshly chopped cilantro to taste.
Serving suggestion: We love to serve this with gluten-free cornbread, the recipe for which can be found here.