Saturday, August 15, 2015

In Search of Hatch Chiles

Hatch Chile Bushel Boxes
 Ever since my friend Melinda Snodgrass has been spending more time in Los Angeles again, I've listened to her bemoan the fact that it is impossible to find Hatch green chiles in any form out here. Apparently, it is a necessary food group in New Mexico. The Hatch green chile salsa I found at Trader Joe's was a failure.
Fresh Green Hatch Chiles
A few weeks ago, I saw an article from the L.A. Times announcing that the annual roasting of Hatch chiles would be occurring at grocery stores all over the county for a few short weeks. I was surprised, but at that point my husband said, oh, yeah, they do that every year at a nearby Alberton's (not on the first list I saw, but now it says August 29.) The chiles are brought in from the area of New Mexico where they are grown (like champagne or Parmesan cheese, the location of origin is very important: other variations of green chile peppers do not taste the same) and purchase can be made by the bushel (or smaller amounts, it turns out.)

 The boxes of chiles are opened into a drum roaster, where the chiles are continuously turned until charred all over. The green chiles need to be charred, stemmed, peeled, and seeded before they are used. Freezing them after they are charred makes the peeling of the outer skin much easier (I've read and been told.)
Roasted Hatch Chiles
So last week I went to the Gelson's in La Canada-Flintridge that was supposed to be holding a Hatch chile event. The listing was incorrect, and the other places in the article were terra incognito to me. Fortunately, I did ask at the information desk at the grocery and they told me that it would happen this Saturday instead.
Hawking Hatch Chiles
The stifling heat almost discouraged me. It was 85 degrees when I left the house at 9:45 this morning, and it felt much hotter.

The drive was uneventful, and I had the benefit of knowing where I was going this time. When I pulled into the parking lot, a tent and roasting area were set up outside the entrance to the Gelson's. The smell of roasting chiles perfumed the air.
Shoppers ISO Hatch Chiles

The chiles were available fresh, roasted, dried, ground, and in salsas. There were cookbooks available for sale and samples of food using both the mild and the hot chiles. I'm a coward, I only tried the mild offerings and I still had the taste in my mouth when I got home.
Hatch Chiles in a Roasting Drum
 I'm not complaining, especially because the potato salad I tried was really good. They also had chile chocolate chip cookies. My sister would like that.
Chocolate Chip Hatch Chile Cookies
When I saw how large a full bushel of the roasted chiles was, I knew I did not have enough room in my freezer for that many.
Worker with a Box of Roasted Hatch Chiles
Plus, I planned to buy some for Melinda's freezer as well, and I knew she'd want the hot chiles. Fortunately, they were selling smaller quantities  of the chiles in the kind of containers in which stores sell roasted chickens. Weighing a little less than 3 pounds each, they were a more manageable size.
Container of Hatch Chiles--Hot
 I gave Melinda a call to confirm what she wanted and told her I'd put the chiles in freezer bags in smaller quantities. She asked for a container of hot and a container of mild. I bought a second container of the mild for myself.

When I got home, I found that four or five chiles would store in a single layer of a quart freezer bag. Each store container filled five or six quart bags and they are now freezing flat. I'll move them out to Melinda's the next time I go check her mail.
Roasted Chiles Ready for Peeling
Now I'm trying to figure out how many chiles to add to a vinaigrette to make a warm potato salad.

Check out the article from the L.A. Times (above) if you are interested in purchasing Hatch chiles. They will be available for about a month at selected grocery stores. 

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