Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Heat is On - Hatch Chiles from New Mexico

For a hot time in the old Southwest, consider attending the Hatch Chile Festival over the Labor Day weekend.  Some 30,000 chile aficionados converge on the tiny town of Hatch, New Mexico each year to celebrate the “Hatch Chile,” arguably the world’s finest chile pepper.  Hatch is located about forty miles north of Las Cruces and its chile terroir is a combination of fertile soil, abundant water, and the hot days and cool nights for which the Rio Grande Valley is known.  Actually, the “Hatch Chile” is not a variety of chile pepper but a generic term used to describe chile peppers of several varieties grown in this area.  Their flavor is a unique blend of sweetness and spicy heat with a touch of smokiness from the roasting required for removal of the skin.  They are perfect for chile con queso, chile rellenos, chile verde, enchiladas and most any other use to which chile can be put.   Heck, they can even be used in ice cream.  Fortunately, they can be frozen for up to a year, so you can spread their use until the next year’s crop arrives.    

Hatch, New Mexico was not on this year’s travel schedule, but Pasadena, California was as it is our base camp for excursions to the Hollywood Bowl and Los Angeles area museums and art galleries.  We heard that Bristol Farms in South Pasadena was conducting its third annual Hatch Chile Roasting during which free roasting was provided.  We are intrepid foodies, as you know, so we could not squander this opportunity.  Hatch Chiles range in “heat” from mild to xx hot.  Bristol Farms offered mild and hot, so naturally we purchased a 25 pound box of hot chiles (aka “Sandia”).  No wimps are we.  These chiles range from about 5-8 inches in size and are a favorite amongst chefs and food lovers, particularly those who like spicy heat in their foods.  The consistent level of heat makes these chiles perfect for sauces--such as the Green Chile Verde Sauce served at the Pink Adobe Restaurant in Santa Fe.  We are used to spicy hot foods--my companion can eat a jalapeño pepper without tears—and found the “hot” chile to be moderate in heat and probably perfect for almost any use.

If you hanker for a taste of the American Southwest, act fast as the Hatch Chile season is almost over.  In Southern California, Bristol Farms still has a great selection of mild and hot fresh Hatch Chiles that you can roast up yourself, as well as prepackaged chiles you can use immediately or toss in the freezer for the holidays.

If you prefer shopping by fingers rather than on-foot, Melissa's Produce has Hatch Chiles that you can order online, along with great information on how to prepare, care for and use these chiles.

One of my favorite restaurants in Santa Fe is the Pink Adobe Restaurant.  The following is my adaption of its Green Chile Verde Sauce recipe found in the Green Adobe Cookbook.  Although any type of chile can be used, make sure to use Hatch Chiles for the best result:

Christy’s Chile Sauce:

32 ounces (approximately 28) hot green chiles (fresh or frozen)

¼ cup chopped white onion

1 24-ounce can whole tomatoes

¼ cup of butter

1 tablespoon of salt

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Sauté the onions lightly in butter.

Combine chiles, tomatoes and spices in a Dutch oven (or equivalent) over low heat, add onions and mix well.  Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Store in refrigerator up to one week or freeze.  If you desire a smoother texture, you can blend with an immersion blender or in your food processor to desired consistency.

This sauce is a great base for enchiladas, adding extra flavor to rice, starting a soup or, if you can handle the heat, as a dip for chips.

 For more information about Pink Adobe:

If you are interested in the Pink Adobe Cookbook, you may find one at Amazon or contact the restaurant.

Pink Adobe 505-983-7712
406 Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe, New Mexico


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