Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Seasonably, Spicy New Mexico Hatch Chile

Have you had a fire-roasted Hatch chile before? If you haven't, I believe you are missing out. There is something to be said for the wonderful aroma these chiles have – spicy and aromatic. 

This chile plant is known to be the largest agricultural crop for New Mexico and they are known for their awesome chiles!  The defining food elements of New Mexican cuisine contain Green chile, blue corn, and pine nuts. This cuisine contains food elements taken from Spanish, Mediterranean, Mexican and Pueblo Native American cuisines, making it uniquely flavorful and memorable.

Although the Hatch chiles distantly-related cousin, the Anaheim chile, looks similar in appearance, don’t be fooled, it doesn’t contain the fiery substance that Hatch chilies do. A brief comparison on the Scoville scale?

Anaheim chili pepper: 500 - 1,000 Scovilles. A mild, medium sized chili pepper that grows to 6-10 inches, often used when green, though it can be used when red.

Hatch chili peppers: 1,000 - 2,500 Scovilles. Hatch chili peppers are grown and harvested in Hatch Valley, New Mexico. They are harvested in late July and early August and have a mild to medium flavor. The peppers are long and curved, much like the Anaheim chili pepper, and are perfect for stuffing.

In times past, I’ve used Anaheim chiles for making a healthier version of Chiles Rellenos (the way Mom still makes). The ones that are pictured below are made with Hatch chiles. Still delicious, although, not for the faint of heart, great if you like spicy! I use a combination of shredded Monterey Jack Cheese and a Mexican cheese like Cotija. The cheese is mixed in a bowl with scallions, oregano and a dried bay leaf for added flavor. I let the mixture set for at least an hour. (Make sure to remove the Bay Leaf before stuffing). Once the chiles are roasted and peeled (and they’ve cooled), I remove the seeds and fill them with the cheese mixture. Lastly, I drizzle olive oil and a balsamic or red wine vinegar (your preference), over the chiles with a dash of salt and pepper. I was looking for a "retro" type of recipe for Hatch chiles and couldn't find one, but I came upon this website that looks like it would have some spicy dishes.Don't forget that chiles have an amazing variety of nutrients too -- remember that when you start to sweat with your first bite.

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