Have you tried a fresh Hatch Chile? If so, consider yourself fortunate — it is difficult to try fresh Hatch Chiles outside the American Southwest (short of an overnight shipment). If you have never heard of a Hatch Chile, 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 Chile season with slight shoulder periods in late July and early September. If you want to experience a freshly roasted Hatch Chile, you have a limited window: 6 weeks.
Today I attended a Hatch Chile roast hosted by Melissa’s Produce and Bristol Farms. At the event, customers were able to purchase boxes of these Chiles and have them professionally roasted on the spot! During the event I was even able to taste several dishes that use Hatch Chiles.
What is a Hatch Chile?
A Hatch Chile is a green Chile about the size of a child’s shoe, with meaty flesh, complex earthy flavors, and mild-medium heat. This Chile 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 Chile is exclusively grown in a 100 square mile area called the Mesilla Valley, just north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The name of the Chile is after a small town called “Hatch”,
which is in the Mesilla Valley. Just like wine, the best Chiles 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 Chile.
What is a Chile Roast?
Since Hatch Chiles 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 Chile 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 Chiles as they roasted at 900 degrees under open flame. As a result of this high temperature roast, the Chiles blistered, charred and even popped! The Chiles 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 Chiles 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 Chiles, I recommend that you package the Chiles 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 Chilees.
How do I use a Hatch Chile?
There are many great uses of the Hatch Chile , including traditional dishes like salsa and Chile relleno. Although some of the best applications of Hatch Chile is by “Hatching” any sweet or savory dish like cornbread, sausage, or pancakes with these Chiles. 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 Chile breakfast burrito and Hatch speckled sausage. My favorite dish was the Hatch Waygu hamburger, the Chile cut through the fat content and added a slight zing. Some of the drinks we tried included Hatch Chile Infused Tequila (makes a great bloody Mary) and a Hatch Chile 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 Chiles. Although Chiles 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 Chile, 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 Chiles and Orange County restaurant trends.
I will be trying several recipes over the course of the next couple weeks; watch out for Hatch Chile pumpkin pancakes ! And look out for my time lapse photographs of air dried Hatch Chile.