Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Many Senses of Fall - Smell

This is the only season that I can smell, and actually sense it well before it arrives on the calendar. Sometime around the 10th or 15th of August, always in the afternoon, the breeze will pick up and ..oh, was that it? Did the smell of Fall just waft under my nose? I will stop, look at the trees, listen for the rustling of the leaves, and deeply draw in another breathe, yearning for a sign that Fall is coming. I might smell it again that day but then I might have to wait for another few days. Fall is my favorite season and also of my dear husband, Farmer Jeff.

What exactly is the smell of Fall, you are probably asking. Seeing that I have always lived in California, a state known for no seasons (but only by those with VERY distinct seasons) it is the smell of leaves turning colors, of leaves burning, fireplaces just being lit, and in the afternoon, the light breezes carry a hint of all of this to my nose.

Other smells of fall in wine country include the dust getting kicked up by all of the farm workers arriving to pick grapes, of the "must", grape trash leftover from crushing, and my favorite, grilling chiles! After having visited New Mexico in the Fall, this is now in my lizard brain's file cabinet of smells. On almost every vacant corner in Albuquerque you will find giant roasting tumblers filled with hot green New Mexico chiles. I am so envious of this availability of chiles! Most folks in Albuquerque will go to these corners and buy pounds of roasted green chiles, put about 5 or 6 into small baggies and then pop them into the freezer for use year round. I wanted to bring some frozen ones back with me, but, obviously, they wouldn't be frozen by the time I got home!

This year a dear friend of mine from Sonoma County called to see if I wanted to receive 40 pounds of Hatch-type New Mexican chiles. Hell, yes, I said!!! Well, Thursday night they arrived! I had them in my car for less than 4 hours, and I can STILL smell them 4 days later! On Friday I fired up both Weber barbecues in the backyard and started grilling. I must have grilled for almost 3 hours. The smell was glorious! I stayed up peeling chiles until 11:30 Friday night and the chiles have been eaten with every meal since!

I made my favorite stew on Sunday with the chiles. Here is the recipe:

New Mexico style Harvest Stew
Makes 8 servings if served alone, more if served with something else.

2 T. olive oil
4 pounds pork meat (from a 5 ½ pound pork shoulder w/ fat and bones removed),
cut into 2" chunks *You can also make this with chicken, beef or lamb

2 T. olive oil
1 onion, ch.
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. oregano
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
4 c. chicken broth
Roasted Tomatoes, pureed (take about 10 tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil,
and blacken under the broiler, puree)
5 green chiles, hatch or poblano, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 med. sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1" dice pieces
2 ears corn, kernels cut off cob *or substitute 1 cup frozen corn kernels
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a large "dutch oven" (about 8 qt heavy pot) heat 2 T. olive oil. When oil is hot enough to almost start to smoke, add 1 layer of pork cubes to the pot. Brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl and add the next layer of meat. Repeat process until all meat has been browned.
2. Drain off the excess pork fat and add the next 2T. of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to get the pork flavor bits off of the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with the ground cumin and dried oregano.
3. Return the meat to the pan, and add: canned tomatoes, chicken broth, the roasted tomato puree and the diced green chiles. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and let cook for 1 hour. Never cover.
4. Now add the butternut squash. Cook for another hour.
5. If, after the 2 hours of cooking time, there is just too much liquid, turn the flame/heat up, bring it to a boil, and let it cook off some of the liquid. Keep stirring to keep from sticking to pan.
6. Once the meat is tender (about 2 hours) and has the consistency you are looking for, add the corn and check the seasoning for salt and pepper.

This can be served with hot tortillas and cold beer...and whatever else you feel like! Fresh Pineapple is the ideal dessert!

Let me know what you think!