True chileheads know what’s special about August: It’s the start of the short-but-sweet Hatch Chile season.
Grown only in a tiny portion of New Mexico and available fresh only in late summer through early fall, these bright green chiles have become the darling of fiery-food fans all over.
Hatch, N.M., about 75 miles northwest of El Paso, calls itself the chile capital of the world, and the only true Hatch Chiles come from this area. The secret? Hot days, cool nights, a 4,000 foot elevation and rich volcanic soil, which combine for a medium-hot, earthy chile that’s meatier and spicier than the more common Anaheim chile, its look-a-like.
Roadside stands selling roasted Hatch Chiles are a seasonal tradition in New Mexico, and the chile’s fame spread to Texas a generation ago. Now, thanks to Food Network specials and celeb chefs, who use them in everything from green enchiladas to chile-spiked candy, Hatch Chiles are loved nationwide.
When Hatch Chiles finish ripening and turn deep red, the skin can no longer be separated from the flesh, and the chiles are usually ground into powder. So get them while you can! Fresh Hatch Chile season usually ends in late September.
Hatch Chiles should be glossy, bright green, heavy for their size and firm. Relatively straight, flat peppers are best for roasting; they’ll turn easily and blacken evenly.
You can often purchase Hatch Chiles roasted, but it’s easy to do yourself. (Use tongs to turn them, so chiles blacken evenly.)
Oven/broiler: Turn on broiler and place chiles in a single layer on a cookie sheet; broil for 6 – 8 minutes, or until skin blisters and blackens.
Outdoor grill: Place a single layer of chiles on the grill, about 5 – 6 inches above the charcoal or other heat source. Grill up to six minutes.
Comal: Place the comal (a round, cast-iron griddle used for tortillas) on the stove top, on high heat. Griddle several chiles at once.
Finishing: After removing blackened chiles from heat, place in a plastic or paper bag and close. In about ten minutes, the steam will soften the skin so that it peels off easily, using your hands or a knife. Peeled, roasted chiles can be frozen in plastic bags. Frozen chiles will keep up to two years, but usually get hotter the longer you keep them around.
Grilled Hatch Pepper Potato Salad
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
4 quarts water
1 1/2 lbs new potatoes, 2-3 inches long, scrubbed, un-peeled, cut into eighths
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 cup corn kernels, cooked, cut from 2 ears grilled or boiled corn
2 Hatch Chilies, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced
3 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar
4 Tbs olive oil
3 scallions, white parts only, sliced thin
3 Tbs cilantro leaves, minced
In large Dutch oven or stock pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil over high heat; add 1 tsp salt. Place potato pieces on skewers. Drop skewers into boiling water and boil until knife slips in and out of potato easily, about 10 minutes. With tongs, remove skewers to paper towel and pat dry. Brush all sides of potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp salt and pepper.
Place skewers on hot grill; cook, turning skewers twice with tongs, until all sides are browned, 4 – 5 minutes per side over medium or medium-low heat. Slide hot potatoes off skewers into medium bowl and use immediately. Toss potatoes with vinegar, salt and pepper. Add corn, Hatch Chilies and jalapeños.
Whisk lime juice and sugar in small bowl until sugar dissolves; whisk in olive oil and salt, to taste. Pour mixture over potatoes and add scallions and cilantro; toss to combine.
Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 337, Fat: 21 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 629 mg, Carbohydrates: 36 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 4 g
© 2010, Brookshire Grocery Co. Nutrient counts are rounded to the nearest whole number All dietary and lifestyle changes should be supervised by a physician.