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Home on the Range: Chile Colorado


Spencer and Mara Welton - COURTESY OF MARA WELTON
  • Courtesy of Mara Welton
  • Spencer and Mara Welton
One year ago, after 16 years of growing vegetables and herbs at Burlington's  Intervale, Mara and Spencer Welton sold Half Pint Farm, the organic farm they founded in 2003.

The Weltons took the rest of 2019 off.  On New Year’s Eve, taking stock and looking forward, they asked each other: "So, what are we going to do now?" Mara recalled.

The couple decided it was time to look for jobs. Mara and Spencer updated their resumes for the first time in 16 years and sent out cover letters. They had interviews and received callbacks for positions in Vermont’s food and agriculture sectors, Mara said.

No one hired them.

“We were mind-boggled,” Mara said. “I guess the universe was telling us, 'Working for other people is not for you.'”

But that was OK, she said. The Weltons, a couple since high school in Denver and married for 27 years, enjoy working together and running a business. So this spring, they launched a new business: Chile Colorado, a mobile eatery that serves food from their native Southwest.

“We’ve always come back over and over to the idea of bringing southwestern food to Vermont,” Mara said. “It’s our passion. It’s what we crave.”

The Weltons purchased two food carts from Carte Blanche, rigs that earlier belonged to Burlington taqueria Taco Gordo.

 “They have a nice legacy here in Burlington,” Mara said of the carts.

Cooking out of their home kitchen in the New North End, which is licensed for catering, the Weltons make dishes including enchiladas, posole, nachos, burritos, tostados and chile Colorado. (They had offered southwestern fare at the Burlington winter farmers market for a few years after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.)

Chile Colorado offers free delivery, Monday through Wednesday, to six Chittenden County towns. It has curbside service from 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays at Simple Roots Brewing in the Burlington's New North End, and on Friday and Sunday mornings outside the Weltons' home.

The plan is to set up one cart at the Elks Lodge on North Avenue in late May or early June. (Check Chile Colorado’s social media for updates on locations and dates.)

The Weltons shared the recipe for their business' namesake dish, chile Colorado, with Seven Days.
Chile Colorado and housemade flour tortillas - COURTESY OF MARA WELTON
  • Courtesy of Mara Welton
  • Chile Colorado and housemade flour tortillas

Chile Colorado

  • 2 pounds stew beef, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons chile powder, New Mexican medium hot
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 to 3 cups chile Colorado sauce (rojo chile)
  • 18 dried red New Mexican chiles or a mix of guajillos, pasillas and Anaheims
  1. Make chile Colorado sauce: Preheat low broiler. De-stem chiles and break them up into 1-2" pieces. Spread chile pieces and seeds onto a dry baking sheet.
  2. Place tray of chiles under the broiler, leaving the oven door open! You must stand there and watch the chiles so they don't burn. Pull them out every 20 seconds or so and toss them as they curl and toast. When they are fragrant and seem toasty (they'll darken in color), they are done. The whole toasting process is very fast and takes 1-2 minutes. Don't walk away, they will burn!
  3. Add toasted chiles and about half the seeds to a blender along with 1 clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with warm water and let sit while chiles soften, about 10 to 20 minutes. Blend on high until you have a puree. If it is too thick to blend well, add more water. When completely smooth, set aside and reserve blender for later in the recipe.
  4. Start the rest of the recipe. Add 2 tablespoons oil to Dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed 4 quart pan with a lid) and heat on medium-high. When hot, brown meat in batches — don't crowd the pan — adding oil as needed. Using tongs, flip meat as it browns to sear each side. Remove meat to a plate as it cooks and continue until all meat is browned.
  5. Lower heat and add onion and garlic to Dutch oven. Cook until soft, but not browned. Add oregano, rubbing it between your hands as you add it. Stir to combine.
  6. Sprinkle flour and chile powder over the cooked garlic and onions and stir until it forms a paste.
  7. Add 1 cup water and stir to make a roux. Add 1 cup more water and whisk to combine. Raise heat and add 1 cup of the chile Colorado. Heat to a low boil for 2 minutes.
  8. Add 1 cup of the reserved chile Colorado back to the blender, and pour the hot chile sauce from the Dutch oven into the blender. Blend carefully until smooth and return to Dutch oven, heat again to a low boil.
  9. Add meat back to pot. Cover and return to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until meat is tender and sauce has thickened somewhat, 2-3 hours. Add more chile Colorado or water if mixture gets too thick.
  10. Serve with pinto beans, Spanish rice and warm flour tortillas.
Source: Mara Welton of Chile Colorado