Monday, September 5, 2011

Our batch of Hatch.

(L) Roasting Hatch chiles on the Weber. (R) Simmering salsa verde. © Ryan Schierling
The allure of Hatch chiles is not lost on me. Living in the northwest, they were impossible to find. When the annual Hatch Chile Festival was going on in Hatch, New Mexico at the beginning of September, these bad-ass cousins of the mild-mannered Anaheim chile were spreading across the south like a green heat wave. But the only way to get them in Washington state was to order them at considerable expense from one of the many Hatch purveyors online.

Here in Austin, you start seeing crates of them in grocery stores around the middle of August, with nary a pepper left by Labor Day. It's a fairly narrow window of opportunity, and you can bet we weren't going to miss it.

Really, you can't afford to miss it. A pound of fresh Hatch chiles was, at it's most expensive this year, $1.29, and we eventually got them at three pounds for a dollar. We spent a few days fire-roasting, peeling, cooking, canning and freezer-bagging our bounty of Hatch chiles, and there's a part of me that still doesn't think we have enough.

Since we're new to using Hatch peppers, a proper New Mexico salsa verde from Green Chile Bible - Award-winning New Mexico Recipes was first on the list. An easy green sauce – chopped chiles, onion, garlic, chicken stock, cumin and a bit of salt – that is simply simmered and served. It can be added to anything, spooned on top of everything, and lends an earthy heat that is more complex than most other chile peppers.

We rolled whole-roasted chiles with cheese and chunks of fresh white onion into corn tortillas for Hatch enchiladas in red sauce. Julie made her famous ghetto mac-n-cheese with fusilli and smoked cheddar cheese, and we added Hatch salsa verde until it was a creamy light green and brought a sweat to your brow after a few bites. New Mexico chile verde is the green equivalent of Texas red, and it worked very well for breakfast on top of hash browns with diced onion, sour cream and a couple of over-easy eggs.

Though it won't last until next season, our batch of Hatch will definitely inspire more dishes over the next few months and provide a little bit of internal warmth this winter when Austin temperatures drop into… oh, say… the bitter-cold mid-50s. 

(L-R) Hatch chile and cheese enchiladas in red sauce. Hatch mac-n-cheese with smoked cheddar. Hatch chile verde over hash browns with over-easy eggs. © Ryan Schierling

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