If you live in the southwest, have you noticed the big roasters outside your grocery stores? And the giddy, salivating people who can’t wait to get their hands on their fresh roasted box of steamy, smoky green chilies?
Here’s what’s going on – It’s Hatch Chili Season!
This is an annual tradition unique to the Southwest. Extremely popular, particularly in New Mexico and Texas and I’m thrilled that we enjoy it in Nevada, too!
What the heck is a Hatch?
Hatch chilies are slender, green chili peppers that look like an Anaheim chili that’s been to Weight Watchers. Named after the town of Hatch, New Mexico, the only region where they’re grown.
Chili-heads get excited about “the season” because these chilies are only available for a few weeks from August to early September.
If you don’t live in an area that has the Hatch chili magically appear in August you can have them shipped to your house from these good folks – 2 Lb. Premium Roasted Hatch Green Chile, Medium Flavor
Hatch chilies are the perfect chili-loving balance of flavor and heat. They taste very harsh raw so they are nearly always roasted. Flame roasting creates caramelization of sugars, which adds a tantalizing smoky flavor to the chili. That’s why people are doing the happy dance in front of the grocery mart.
Hatch chilies come in three levels of heat; mild, medium and hot. The hot is really hot! I suggest choosing mild because it just works in so many recipes.
You got a box, now what do you do?
Rule number one – Respect the pepper! Capsicum is an irritant to skin and eyes. You must take precautions. Before you touch the peppers – remove your contact lenses, wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt. Have a sink of warm soapy water ready to wash everything that comes in contact with the peppers. Don’t touch your face, eyes or anything delicate (ahem) with your peppery gloves. You’ll live to regret it and never forget it.
If you bought a whole box at the grocery store, they will usually roast the peppers for free. Then you take it home, hot and toasty, wrapped in a plastic bag. This is perfect because the trapped steam will help the pepper skin separate from the pepper flesh.
If you buy less than a box, or you choose to roast them yourself, here are the easy instructions.
You can either fire up your BBQ or heat your oven to 425°F. Place your peppers in a single layer either on the grill or on a baking sheet. Cook the peppers until all the skin is darkened and blistered. This will depend on the size of the peppers and the heat of your BBQ. The last time I roasted Hatch chilies, it took 18 minutes in my oven, flipping them over half way through.
As soon as you have blistered, darkened peppers; place them in a paper or plastic bag to trap the heat and steam. Let them sit until they cool.
Once the peppers have cooled, the blistered skin will easily pull off the chili with an occasional help from a rinse in water. After you’ve peeled the skin from the pepper, open the pepper and scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Discard the seeds.
Now the peppers are ready to be enjoyed but a box is a whole lot of peppers. Thankfully they freeze beautifully.
To keep the best flavor freeze them as soon as possible after roasting. Ideally within a couple of hours.
You can freeze whole peppers without peeling them but I recommend preparing them so they’re recipe ready. To avoid your peppers turning into mush they must freeze quickly as slow freezing causes ice crystals.
Place them in shallow layers and freeze. Place cup measures of frozen peppers in zippered freezer bags, squeeze the air out and seal. Freeze flat and stack to save space. Peppers can be stored safely in the freezer for 12-18 months.
What can you do with hatch chilies? In Southwest cuisine green chili is so popular you find it in practically everything, even desserts.
Here are two recipes you’ll love:
You can make salsa, put them in cheeseburgers, pizza, burritos, soups, stews, casseroles, egg dishes, baked into bread, the list goes on and on.
If you enjoy the flavor of chilies, then your favorite part of the season will be eating them with everything.
Down the hatch! I couldn’t resist.