CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — It’s that time of year that chileheads, those of use who prefer life with a bit more spice and can be seen adding hot sauce and chopped chiles to everything from scrambled eggs to burger meat, wait for every year: The Hatch chiles are in season!
Just as with Vidalia onions out of Georgia, there’s something in the soil where these chiles are grown that gives them their characteristic flavor.
The aroma of a roaster full of Hatch chiles has been known to draw savvy chileheads from miles away in search of its source.
Grocery stores nationwide will get their ration of the long green peppers, so watch your produce department well and make friends with a stocker or two to find out when they’re arriving.
Once you get yours, keep them cold until you’re ready to roast them, but be sure to let them come to room temperature before you put them to the flame. There are many methods out there for roasting chiles, but my favorites involve either a gas stove or a charcoal grill.
If you’re using the stove, turn a burner on medium-high and lay chiles directly on the grate above the burner. Using tongs, turn them frequently until all sides are blistered. Put the chiles into a glass bowl large enough to give them a bit of air space and cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Let them sit for about 15 minutes to allow them to cool and let the skin loosen.
The procedure is largely the same if using a charcoal grill. The chiles can go on with your burgers, steaks or whatever else you’re cooking and take up any unused grill space. I find that using the grill gives the end product a smokier flavor that’s very appealing.
My pro tip for removing the skin: Use a paring knife to get the biggest chunks off, then use a damp paper towel to scrub off all the remaining bits. It will make a ridiculous mess of your hands, but experience has taught me it’s the quickest way to get the job done.
Once the chiles are peeled, you can refrigerate them, then seal them in freezer bags and keep them frozen for several months. But before you do that, try chopping some up and adding them to the aforementioned scrambled eggs and burger meat. Add some to your chili or taco meat, or even mix them into a tapenade for a kicked-up sandwich topping.
If you’ve got chiles to spare, try my favorite Hot Dog Chile Overload creation: Grill a good hot dog and toast the bun. Cut a chile down the middle and remove the seeds. Trim it to fit the bun, keeping the trimmings for other uses, and put the chile inside the bun as a liner. Nestle the dog inside the chile, top with mustard and relish and enjoy!
Note: If you can’t get Hatch chiles, or you get a hankering for grilled chile flavor out of season, Anaheim chiles work almost as well and they’re available just about year-round.
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