What’s the Big Deal about Hatch Chiles?
Hatch chiles are special for a number of reasons. First of all they make their appearance each year only in the months of August and September. Secondly, they come from a very specific geographic region of the United States. They are grown only in the valley along the Rio Grande River near the small town of Hatch, New Mexico. Thirdly, Hatch chiles vary in intensity. The same variety of chile can be mild, medium, hot or extra hot. The fact is that the chile varieties grown in Hatch, New Mexico just don’t taste the same as those grown anywhere else. Hatch chiles are unique. Maybe it’s the soil. Maybe it’s the intense sunlight and the cool nights of the New Mexico valley that produce such a uniquely flavored chile. But, whatever it is, Hatch chiles are a treasured treat and they are abundant this time of the year.
Every year there is a Hatch Chile Festival in Hatch, New Mexico celebrating this famous chile. For years you could only get the fresh chiles in New Mexico itself. But, much like the Vidalia onions of Vidalia, Georgia, Hatch chiles are now available pretty much everywhere. The widespread availability is due to large groceries like Whole Foods that ship Hatch chiles all across the country, but there are also smaller providers of Hatch chiles, too, like The Hatch Chile Store in Hatch, New Mexico.
All around Hatch, New Mexico, you will find chile roaster this time of the year, sending folks home with fresh roasted chiles. These roasters are found in grocery store parking lots, farmers markets, and on the side of the road. Hatch chiles need to be roasted before they are used because the outer skin is tough. Once they are roasted, it is super-easy to peel off the outer skin.
For most recipes, it’s best to remove the seeds and the membranes of the chile. However, I always reserve some of the seeds… just in case. You never know when you will need to add extra heat. 😉
How to Roast Hatch Chiles
If you don’t buy your Hatch chiles already roasted, don’t worry. It’s a simple process that you can do in your own kitchen.
I prefer to use my Baking Steel to roast peppers in the oven. Essentially, the Baking Steel allows you to roast both sides at the same time under the broiler. And you do want to roast Hatch chiles before using them in any recipe. Roasting makes the process of removing the coarse skin from the meat of the pepper much easier to do.
To roast Hatch chiles in the oven, you first want to rinse them and then dry them thoroughly with a clean towel. If you are using a Baking Steel, place the steel in the oven on the highest or second-to-highest rack and pre-heat it on Bake at your oven’s highest temperature for at least 45 minutes. Once the Baking Steel is fully heated, place the chiles on the steel and switch the oven from Bake to Broil. Keep a close eye on the chiles. You do want them to blister, but you do not want to burn them. After a couple of minutes, flip the chiles if necessary. Once the chiles are roasted, remove them from the oven and place them in large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the chiles to cool in the bowl. The cool-down time helps the skins to further separate from the meat of the chiles, making it easier to peel them.
Peel the chiles and remove the seeds after they have cooled. Then you are ready to cook up some delicious dishes with roasted Hatch chiles!
Here’s an excellent video on roasting chiles on a grill:
Chicken Tortilla Soup… Kicked Up a Notch
My family loves Chicken Tortilla Soup. As a matter of fact, I posted my usual recipe for it last September. But the other day, while I was shopping at Whole Foods, I noticed a large display of Hatch chiles with a sign that read, “Hatch Chiles: 3 lbs for $1.00.” I was intrigued. 3 pounds of Hatch chiles for $1.00? “What’s wrong with them? Are they rotting?” I thought. I examined them and they looked fine. Apparently, Whole Foods just had an abundance of Hatch chiles and needed to get rid of them. And I was happy to help out with that. So, as I drove home with my 3 lbs of chiles, I dreamed of what dishes I could make for the week that would incorporate Hatch chiles. Chicken Tortilla Soup was the first thing I thought of. I also thought of making a Cream of Hatch Chile Soup with Roasted Corn, Tomatoes and Sausage. I did, in fact, make that the other day too. But I’ll save that recipe for tomorrow.
So how was the Chicken Tortilla Soup with the Hatch chiles instead of green bell peppers? Definitely hotter… and oh so good!
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ½ bunch of cilantro, chopped
- 4 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- 6 to 8 Hatch chiles, roasted, seeded and chopped (reserve seeds for extra heat)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 4 large chicken breasts, shredded (or one whole chicken, roasted and deboned)
- 1 cup of cheddar cheese
- 12 cups chicken stock
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons of butter (we prefer Kerrygold)
- 1 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- Salt to taste
- Additional cilantro and green onions to be added to bowls as garnish
- Tortilla chips (we prefer blue corn chips from Garden of Eatin)
- In a mixing bowl add the extra virgin olive oil, the juice of one lime, the chili powder, 2 jalapeño peppers, and ¼ bunch of cilantro, chopped. Mix well and pour over chicken in a large sealable plastic bag. Mix well and allow to chill in fridge for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 425. Place the marinated chicken breasts in oven-safe dish and cook for about 15 minutes on each side. The chicken should no longer be pink in the middle, but be careful not to overcook it.
- Remove chicken from oven and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Using two forks, shred the chicken by pulling across the grain.
- Heat butter in a large stock or soup pot on medium-bigh heat. Add chopped onions and the chopped Hatch chiles. Sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Add the tomatoes, the juice of one lime, the 2 jalapeno peppers, the green onions and return to a boil.
- Lower heat, add salt, black pepper, cayenne, and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add shredded chicken and marinade, and allow to cook for another 10 minutes.
- Add ¼ bunch of cilantro to the pot and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve in bowls, and top with cheese, cilantro, green onions, and blue corn chips.
- Optionally, you can top with sour cream.
Join Jeff Young, The Catholic Foodie, Chef Matt Murphy and Fr. Kyle Sanders on a Food Meets Faith Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Registration for my next pilgrimage to the Holy Land is now open! The pilgrimage will be from February 26 to March 8, 2015. Chef Matt Murphy, owner and operator of The Irish House in New Orleans and winner of Food Network’s Chopped in 2012 will accompany me, and Fr. Kyle Sanders, a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, will travel as the Spiritual Director.
I want to invite you to grow in faith together with me around the table of the Eucharist and around the dinner table in the Holy Land.
TO REGISTER: CALL SELECT INTERNATIONAL TOURS AT 1-800-842-4842.