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Up the Hatch (chiles)

Ages ago, I lived in Santa Fe. Ask anyone who knows me; I talk about it a lot, even though it's been almost 25 years. New Mexico is where I developed my addiction for spice, since green chiles are the condiment of choice on all foods, at every meal. 

Specifically, the most popular chile of the region is the Hatch chile, a long, crooked green pepper. It is the quintessential flavor of New Mexican cuisine, and now is the season for them. So when I received an invitation from Mollie Stone's for their annual Hatch chile roast with a voucher for a free 10-pound box, I didn't hesitate to RSVP. 

So it was on an uncharacteristically New Mexico-like Sunday that I arrived at the Castro store. As I stepped out of my car in the dry, sweltering heat, I was greeted by the roar of roasters and the smoky aroma of searing peppers. 

Hatch chiles roasting from Sean Timberlake on Vimeo.

After observing the roasting for a bit, I went up to place my order. Three types were on offer: Medium, Hot and Extra Hot. I have very little use for the medium heat, but I know too well that the extra hot would be positively fatal. To confirm my choice, I grabbed a sample of the hot chile. 

Hatch chile tasting

At first I got the marvelous taste of the pepper itself—vegetal, lightly fruity, almost sweet. This was immediately followed by a searing heat that raced up my tongue and coated the interior of my mouth. My diaphragm convulsed in a single hiccup. My temples throbbed. Fat tears involuntarily squeezed out of the corners of my eyes and tumbled down my cheeks. 

Hello, old friend. 

"Too hot?" the woman behind the table asked. "No," I croaked, "just perfect." 

I placed my order for 10 pounds of the little demons, and minutes later was rewarded with a box containing a bag, inside which my freshly roasted peppers were steaming off their skins. Once they cooled, we set to work slipping their charred skins off and removing the veins and seeds. Sane people would wear gloves; we did not. So, hours after the job, my hands prickled well into the evening. A glutton for punishment, I am. 

A few have already made their way into some (spicy!) peach salsa, and I plan to make chile verde and some other salsas. The chile roast continues its way around the Bay Area through September, so check out the schedule if you want to get some fresh Hatches of your own. 

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