August and September are Hatch Chile months.
And what are hatch chiles? Well, they look a lot like Anaheim chiles, which are light green in color and rather large. However, Robert Schueller of Melissa’s produce described hatch chiles as the “grandfather” whilst the Anaheim is like the “grandchild.” Additionally, hatch chiles have a much thicker skin, making them great for roasting and even freezing. I had never thought to freeze roasted chiles or peppers!
These particular mild-medium heat chiles hail from New Mexico, but you can find them in local markets during the months of August and September. As a matter of fact, I just saw them advertised in the Sprouts weekly ads, so I’m off the pick some up this weekend and have my own Hatch Chile Roasting event with our backyard barbecue grill!
If you want to attend a live hatch chile roasting event, Melissa’s Produce offers a schedule of dates and locations.
Anyhow, after my Camp Blogaway experience and the contacts I made, I found myself invited to attend a Hatch Chile Lunch at Melissa’s Produce, at which the hosts provided us yummy foods made from hatch chiles with recipes from the new Hatch Chile cookbook presented by Melissa’s Produce.
In addition, we walked away from the event with the cookbook and both dried and frozen hatch chiles to test out a few recipes.
The most unique item on the lunch menu included hatch chile ice cubes! How clever!! What a way to literally spice up your party drinks. Just use a food processor to chop up two hatch chiles, mix with six cups of water, let sit for about 5 minutes, then freeze in your ice cube trays. Voila–spicy ice cubes. The people at Melissa’s served them with ginger ale and lemonade. As they begin to melt, your drink takes on a slight kick of heat that actually complements both drinks (I taste-tested both).
The lunch event opened my eyes to the possibilities of using chiles to add an element of sassiness to a variety of foods, ranging from ice cubes to sweet treats such as cookies to breakfast/lunch/dinner fare and even to nut & pretzel snack mixes. Who knew a chile could provide such versatility? (I took tons of pictures but cannot find the memory card with the images–ARGH!!)
With a cookbook full of recipes to try and some frozen hatch chiles in my freezer, I perused the variety of options and decided on Chiles Rellenos, which hubby requested I make many months ago. They ended up being a lot less work than I had anticipated, in part due to the pre-roasted and frozen chiles (such a bonus!). By the way, you can attend Hatch fire-roasting chile events in the months of August and September (check out this schedule of locations and dates).
I also used some of the chiles to make a Salsa Ranchero recipe from the cookbook to accompany the Chiles Rellenos. You can easily use your food processor to pulse the salsa a bit more if you want a less chunky consistency. All in all, we both enjoyed the Chile Rellenos: mild chiles, cheesy interior, crunchy coating, and slightly spicy salsa to top it all off.
Chiles Rellenos with Salsa Ranchera
- 12 large Hatch Chiles, roasted, peeled, and left whole
- 1 pound cheddar, Jack, or queso blanco cheese, shredded
- 4 large eggs, well chilled and separated
- 4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 Hatch Chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded, and sliced into thin strips
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Methods to roast chiles: To roast over an open flame, use long-handled tongs to hold the chile over a medium flame, turning until evenly charred (I’ve done this over the flame on the stove before). To roast on a barbecue grill, heat the grill until hot. Roast chiles over the direct heat until they are blackened and blistered all over. To roast under a broiler, preheat broiler to high. Arrange chiles in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and set under broiler. Roast until blackened and blistered all over, turning so all sides get roasted.
- Once chiles are roasted, cool using one of the following methods: Transfer roasted chiles to a paper bag, roll the top down, and allow to cool. Or, transfer roasted chiles to a pan or bowl and cover with a tight-fitting lid, a damp towel, or with plastic wrap.
- Once chiles are cool enough to handle, the skins will easily peel off. For chiles rellenos, leave the stem intact, cut a lengthwise slit up one side of each chile (careful, though, to not cut through the tip end), and delicately remove the seeds so you don’t tear the chile.
- Fill the slit chiles with cheese and use toothpicks to hold the chiles closed.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
- Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and egg yolks; mix until completely incorporated.
- Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a large, deep skillet over medium heat (I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet). Working in batches, dip the stuffed peppers into the batter and fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
- Serve with Salsa Ranchera.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, cooking until translucent and softened.
- Add garlic; saute one minute (don’t allow garlic to brown or it will taste bitter).
- Add chiles; saute for 3 more minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes and their juice, then add cumin and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Dissolve cornstarch in the chicken broth. Add broth to pan and bring salsa to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer; cook salsa for 10 minutes or until thickened to your desired level of thickness. (Since I prefer my salsa less chunky, I process mine in the food processor to my desired consistency.)
SOURCE: Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook