Today it's ed (from Yuma) posting at mmm-yoso. Just a note, if you are researching genetic variations in pepper cultivars and you Googled some search terms and ended up here, you probably want to search again - unless you like eating chile verde.
When I moved to Yuma after having lived for most of the previous 15 years in California, I was sure I knew what green chile was - chunks of pork stewed in a mildly spicy green colored sauce consisting of tomatillos, green chilies, onions, garlic, and fresh cilantro.
My sense of green chile was challenged, however, soon after I arrived in Yuma and began eating at some of the "old school" long-time Yuma Mexican restaurants. I realized then that not all green chile was the same. Although it took me a while to get used to these mutant forms, nowadays I appreciate their unique flavors and their place in the traditional cuisine of this border community.
One of the best and most unusual examples of this old style of green chile is the version found at Yuma's oldest Mexican restaurant, one that has roots back into the 1930s, Chretin's. Recently relocating from a rather shabby building in the middle of an older residential section of town (see the first picture), Chretin's now occupies a large and fancy location at the intersection of Arizona Avenue and 16th St (second picture):
For $7.60 (or less as a lunch special), you can get Chretin's green chili burrito enchilada style (also known as saddle style or as a wet burrito):
This style of burrito is fairly simple but also very traditional in Yuma. One fills a flour tortilla with the green chile and then ladles more green chile on top of the burrito along with cheese. Of course, some of you must be saying, "Green? Green? There's nothing green about that chile." And you're right. Do not try adjusting the color balance on your screen, because Chretin's green chile is indeed brown in color. As near as I can tell, this style arose back in the day when fresh or frozen green chilies were not available year around. Therefore, the main source of chile flavor (rather minimal in actual fact) had to be dried green chile powder. One of my friends says that Chretin's green chile is just odd flavored brown gravy with meat, since the sauce is clearly thickened with flour and the main source of picante heat is black pepper:
A careful look at this close-up shows that the meat in the green chile is a very tender, coarsely ground beef, reflecting the Sonoran background of most of Yuma's citizens before World War II. The
gravy sauce also contains flecks of tomato and bits of onion. While this is very far away from anything I would've considered green chile when I moved to Yuma, I have grown to like this unusual dish at Chretin's.
Another old-school Mexican restaurant in town is El Charro, a restaurant that has been managed by one branch of the Gutierrez family since 1949. For many native Yumans and numerous winter visitors, this restaurant on 8th St is the essence of Mexican food in Yuma. Personally, I have always found their large portions to be generally bland and low in flavor. One example of this blandness is their salsa, which tastes like a can of chopped tomatoes mixed with a can of diced mild green chilies:
Nevertheless, I have always been intrigued by their "El Green Saddle," as they call their version of a green chili burrito enchilada style. In fact, this dish is so much a part of the tradition here that it is only dish mentioned in the history of the restaurant painted on the wall:
When served,"El Green Saddle" looks like this:
Again, you would be right to say "this isn't green!" And yeh, the predominant color of this "green" chile is red. Even when one cuts into the burrito and looks at it up close, there is as much tomato red here as there is chile green:
So what is the secret to this dish? Having eaten it several times, I am convinced that El Charro's green chile is simply coarsely ground beef and onions cooked with left over table salsa. That would explain both how it tastes and how it looks. It would also explain why El Charro features this dish. You have to do something, I guess, with all that leftover salsa.
Another branch of the Gutierrez family (92 year old Bessie and her descendents) also began in the restaurant business back in the 1940s, although their oldest restaurant currently in operation is La Casa Gutierrez, which has been located in an old house on Orange Avenue since 1960:
Although their fast food outlets, Mr. G's and Chile Pepper, serve credible versions of their green chili recipe, its best incarnation is in a green chile dinner (Tuesday lunch special pictured) at La Casa Gutierrez:
Although this green chile is the most watery of any in town, I still love the fresh green chile flavor that arises from all these large pieces of green chile. Nonetheless, the use of ground beef and presence of chunks of tomato, instead of tomatillo, marks this as another Yuma mutant green chile:
While I have had the green chile burrito enchilada style at the restaurant (and it's good), the green chile lunch special on Tuesdays is one of the best meal deals in Yuma. For $5.25 (including tax), you get chips (store-bought, unfortunately), salsa, a good-sized portion of green chile, your choice of a beverage (the lemonade is killer), rice, beans, and a soft and flavorful flour tortilla almost the size of a bedsheet:
The newest of the restaurants serving atypical green chile in Yuma is Eduardo's, which dates back to 1964, meaning that it is less than 45 years old. Currently located in a strip mall on Avenue B between 16th and 17th, this small restaurant has its own unique take on green chile. The Chile Verde burrito, enchilada style, currently costs $5.50 and looks like this:
From the outside, this burrito looks a lot like the others, with almost as much red tomato color as green chile color. When you cut into the tortilla, you find beef, tomato, fresh green chile, cheeses, and sauce all mixed together:
It is only when you focus on the meat itself, that you can see one of the main differences between this green chile and the others in this post. Eduardo's does not use ground beef. Instead, numerous sizable chunks of stewing beef have been slowly cooked to utter tenderness:
These chunks of beef give this dish a wonderful deep beefiness. The other difference, one that you cannot see, is in the spiciness of the finished product. All of the other mutant green chilies are very mild in flavor and have virtually no picante heat. Eduardo's, on the other hand, sets your mouth afire with chili spice. While not a standard California-style green chile, I have to admit that this is one of the tastiest green chilies I have ever eaten.
I hope you folks have enjoyed reading about these unusual and weird green chilies in Yuma because I have enjoyed eating them.