Have you tried a fresh Hatch chili? If so, consider yourself fortunate — it is difficult to try fresh Hatch chilies outside the American Southwest (short of an overnight shipment). If you have never heard of a Hatch chili, don’t worry; many people have not, but it is one of the finer gastromic pleasure you should try. The month of August is the prime of the Hatch chili season with slight shoulder periods in late July and early September. If you want to experience a freshly roasted Hatch chili, you have a limited window: 6 weeks. Today I attended a Hatch chili roast hosted by Melissa’s Produce and Bristol Farms. At the event, customers were able to purchase boxes of these chilis and have them professionally roasted on the spot! During the event I was even able to taste several dishes that use Hatch chilis.
What is a Hatch chili?
A Hatch chili is a green chili about the size of a child’s shoe, with meaty flesh, complex earthy flavors, and mild-medium heat. This chili is not that hot (tingle on the tongue), it is no more than 2,500 on the Scoville Scale (jalapeños are 5,000 on the Scoville Scale). The Hatch chili is exclusively grown in a 100 square mile area called the Mesilla Valley, just north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The name of the chili is after a small town called “Hatch”,
which is in the Mesilla Valley. Just like wine, the best chilis are grown in climates with hot daytime temperatures and cold nights; the Mesilla valley benefits from such climate conditions because the valley sits at an elevation of 4,000 ft. The result of this unique climate is a unique tasting chili.
What is a Chili Roast?
Since Hatch chilis have such a short availability window, most people roast them so that they can be frozen and enjoyed throughout the year. In fact, the town of Hatch, New Mexico actually hosts a giant Hatch chili roast and festival which draws in thousands of out-of-state and international visitors every year. We are fortunate to live in southern California and have the good folks at Melissa’s Produce host Hatch Roasting events all over Southern California. Today, Melissa’s produce hosted the event with Bristol Farms in Newport Beach, and I was able to experience a small scale version of this event.
Melissa’s Produce used a motor powered rotating drum to rotate the chilis as they roasted at 900 degrees under open flame. As a result of this high temperature roast, the chilis blistered, charred and even popped! The chilis were then dropped into a plastic bag so that they could steam under their own heat and become soft. Bristol
Farms was selling Melissa’s Hatch chilis in 20 pound boxes, and the crowds were there in force to stock up for the rest of the year. If you get freshly roasted Hatch chilis, I recommend that you package the chilis in small batches in zip-lock bags. Do your best to ensure that you lay them out in rows so that it’s easy to take one or two straight out of the freezer. If you get lazy with your freezing practices, you will have to defrost the entire container to separate a couple chilies.
How do I use a Hatch chili?
There are many great uses of the Hatch chili , including traditional dishes like salsa and chili relleno. Although some of the best applications of Hatch chili is by “Hatching” any sweet or savory dish like cornbread, sausage, or pancakes with these chilis. During the event, KFWB 980 am was broadcasting “Food & Wine with Chef Jamie Gwen.” During the live broadcast we learned some of the more innovative way to Hatch up standard recipes. For example, I tried a Hatch chili breakfast burrito and Hatch speckled sausage. My favorite dish was the Hatch Waygu hamburger, the chili cut through the fat content and added a slight zing. Some of the drinks we tried included Hatch Chili Infused Tequila (makes a great bloody Mary) and a Hatch chili infused ice cubes that were used to chill ginger ale cocktails.
Master Sommelier Michael Jordan, from The Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim , was a guest on the show and spoke about how pair wine with chilis. Although chilis are a tough pairing, Master Sommelier Jordan said that sweeter wines, like a Riesling, are a perfect accompaniment. The sugars in these sweeter wines will compete with capsicum in the chili, thus creating complex flavor layers on the palate. In addition, the wine will help the flavor of the dish stay novel on the taste buds and will relieve any burning. Nancy Luna, “Fast Food Maven” from the OC Register, was also a guest on the show talking about her experience with Hatch chilis and Orange County restaurant trends.
I will be trying several recipes over the course of the next couple weeks; watch out for Hatch chili pumpkin pancakes ! And look out for my time lapse photographs of air dried Hatch Chili.
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