Friday, August 18, 2006

The Famous and Fabulous Hatch Green Chile

I was lucky enough to visit Texas during the very short season for the renowned Hatch green chile. These chiles are grown in only one place – Hatch, New Mexico, the self-proclaimed chile capital of the world. Everything in Texas last week was Hatch – Hatch green chile sausage, chile bread, chile layered inside brie with olive oil (OMG how good would that be). People are obsessed with them – ask anyone West of, well, Boston. Somehow, the chiles just don’t make it all the way out here.

The chiles are ready for harvest during a ridiculously narrow window of time – something like 2 weeks. They are roasted over an open flame – the smell that is emitted from the roaster is unbelievable. I could stand there and just inhale all day. The roasting process was really neat to watch – the chiles bounce around in the spinning cage over an open flame. One second they are perfectly normal-looking fresh green chiles and the next they collapse onto themselves, all charred and fragrant and releasing juice. I guess once they reach a critical temperature they just *poof* and roast. Very fun to watch (and smell), but I think less fun to actually do – the guy roasting chiles at a farmers market was in a bit of pain from all the capsaicin hitting him in the face from the roaster.

I didn’t know what the big deal with these chiles was until I actually ate one. The depth of flavor of a roasted Hatch chile is indescribable. Due to that fact, and because I have a headache, I will not attempt to describe the aforementioned indescribable depth of flavor of a Hatch chile. All I will say is that both the hot and mild Hatch chiles are very sweet. I didn’t think that chiles that size are ever very hot but believe me, these were hot. Really hot.

The chiles I brought back were roasted on a Sunday and I moved plans around so that I could cook with them on Monday, when I got back home. I am aware that I have a problem. I didn’t have a chance to look up an actual, authentic New Mexican chilli recipe so I winged it a bit. I make no claims of this resembling anything ever prepared by New Mexicans, Texans, or anyone else who has ready access to Hatch green chiles. Lucky bastards. [Headache still there. Can you tell?]

For the green chile stew or whatever it is that I made (mush?) I used a mix of hot and mild chiles – 4 hot and 3 mild. It pains me terribly to admit this, but I actually seeded a couple of the hot chiles to knock down the heat level a little. I have failed myself… I had to! The end result was still a very spicy stew/mush. I think most people peel the roasted chiles but I didn’t. I really like the charred flavor of the burnt skin and I figured that the immersion blender will take care of any textural issues which it did, quite nicely. Allowing the chicken to cook with the rest of the mush kept it very juicy and infused it with the chile flavor.

You will have to forgive me – I went a little nuts with the pictures of tomatillos in various stages of undress. They are just so damn photogenic!

Hatch Green Chile Stew/Mush/Chili (don’t know what I should call it)

Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole chicken breast, chopped into large-ish chunks
4 medium tomatillos, chopped
7 roasted peppers (Hatch green chiles if you are fortunate enough, or Anaheim or Poblano chiles would work, right?) with their juice
½ cup chicken stock
2 tbsp cilantro
juice of ½ lime

1) Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add in chicken, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until chicken browns a little.
2) Add chiles with their juice, tomatillos, and chicken stock. Lower hear, cover and cook until the tomatillos break down and the chicken is cooked through, ~10-15 minutes.
3) Remove the chicken to a separate dish and buzz the chile/tomatillo mush with an immersion blender. Add the chicken back, add the cilantro and lime juice, heat through. Adjust the consistency by adding more chicken stock – I left mine really thick. Adjust salt/pepper.

[I meant to add flour to the chicken and chiles before adding the stock to pull the sauce together a little bit but forgot completely. It turned out ok. For future reference - Add 2 tbsp flour and stir about before adding the liquids.]

The chiles freeze really well once roasted. I currently have two bags in my freezer - one with hot and one with mild chiles. One of those bags contains individually wrapped chiles while the other one does not. I got sick of it individually wrapping individual chiles. So I guess I have a Hatch green chile block. Once I find a recipe deserving enough, I will pull them out. Until then, I reserve the right to take out the bags and inhale deeply.



lara griffiths said...

dad has just arrived with 3 coolers of frozen roasted hatch chile- if you would have come just one week later...

Jonathan said...

That looks ridiculously good...wish I were close enough to try it.

JC said...

Hey, I found your blog while I was searching for info about Hatch chiles. I live in Texas, and I just got my hands on some of these beauties. I like to make a sauce out of them and put it on tacos al carbon. I've got a few pictures on my blog.

Gloria Chadwick said...

I totally LOVE Hatch chiles. I bought 20 pounds of them last weekend. Your recipe looks great, considering this was your first time cooking with them. I like that you left the char on. :)
BTW, if you're looking for Hatch recipes, I just started a Hatch Chile Heaven blog last week. There are a few recipes on there now and I'll be adding more.