It’s the most wonderful olfactory experience known to mankind. If you’ve ever been in New Mexico during the chile season, you know what I’m talking about. Chile vendors spring up everywhere, roasting green chile to sell to patrons anxious to stock their freezers with enough of the cherished commodity to last a full year, until the next harvest. The smell is positively divine. Chile is the basis of New Mexican cuisine. Can you imagine Posole without green chile? Stacked enchiladas without red chile? The Official State Question in NM is “Red or Green?” because it’s so frequently asked. (an estimated 175,000-200,000 times per day.) If you want both red and green, just say “Christmas.”
Example: “I’d like Huevos Rancheros, Christmas, Over-Medium, with beans, papas, and corn tortillas, please.” Then they will bring you this:
If you’re like me and you aren’t sure if you’ll make it over to NM during chile season, don’t fret. Chile is making it’s way out of New Mexico and into other parts of the country. If you live in Texas, supermarket chains will likely have fresh roasted Hatch Chile available and you will know it the moment you step out of your car. That amazing scent will be wafting across the parking lot and you will be hypnotized by its power. Grab a cart and go get a bag or two!
Or, even better.. you can create your own little New Mexico-style chile-roasting atmosphere in your own back yard! It’s easy. Just follow these steps:
Step 1: Harvest or buy a small batch of chile. Today I’m using Sandia chiles from my garden, but you can use Hatch or even Anaheim chiles for this. Grab a plastic bowl or container with a lid. For this small batch of chile, I thought a Tupperware 6-cup Thatsa Bowl in a festive red color was just perfect! (I think this color was actually called “chili.”) Wash the peppers and preheat the grill to medium heat.
Step 2: While the grill is preheating, find a pair of tongs and a wooden skewer. Grab a cold beverage. If you have a New Mexico koozie that you can use, it will only add to the ambience.
Step 3: Play some music while you roast chile. Play whatever you like. Here’s a great song by Selena:
You don’t speak Spanish? Me either. When listening to Selena it really doesn’t matter. With a voice like that, who cares what she’s saying? And the drums are AWESOME in that song.
Step 4: Scatter the chile all over the grill. (oops, I forgot to first poke a hole in each chile with a wooden skewer.. I had to do that after I put them on the grill. Thank Goodness I had a long skewer.)
If you don’t poke a hole in the peppers, they will fill with steam and expand while cooking, resulting in an explosion. Not a big deal but it can be startling when they “pop.”
My grill is kind of beat up. If your grill doesn’t look like mine, then you just haven’t used it enough.
Step 5: Turn the chile with tongs until they are blistered all over. The skin will separate from the pepper and it will blacken in places. This is just fine because you won’t be eating the skin anyway. Turn the chiles over a couple of times until they are nice and roasted all over. * Stop and notice how good your patio area smells. Now close your eyes and imagine you are in New Mexico, but don’t close them for too long or you’ll burn the chile! * Some people like their chiles lightly roasted and others like them very, very roasted. I like mine somewhere in the middle. Under-roasting chile isn’t good because the flavor isn’t fully developed; over-roasting is bad because the chile tastes burned. I like for them to look something like this:
Step 5: Using tongs, place the chiles back into your Tupperware 6-cup Thatsa Bowl and seal the lid. Allow the peppers to rest in the bowl for about 10 minutes. The steam inside the bowl will encourage the skins to separate from the peppers even more. Try not to open the bowl and take a whiff until the chile has had time to steam.
Step 6: Once they have steamed and cooled off a bit, transfer the chiles to a freezer container or bag and pop them in the freezer. That’s all there is to it! My Tupperware Freezer Mates with purplicious lids are the perfect home for green chile.
Oh my goodness, what’s that? There’s still a chile left in the bowl. I guess I will have to eat it……
Grab a corn tortilla and warm it up. The grill works fine for this. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds from the pepper. Wrap it in the tortilla so you can sample it. Sandia chiles are supposed to be kind of hot….
MERCY!!!!! HOLY SHNIKEY!!!! WHOA NELLY!!! FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE!!!
In other words, it was dang hot. This chile will be labeled “very hot” in the freezer. It’s not the kind of chile you can pile onto your food, but it will be awesome added to a big pot of posole or even Texas chili to add heat and flavor. (it’s phenomenal in Prickly Pear Jam) A little Sandia chile goes a long way!
I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. Once you have roasted and frozen tons of chile, click this link to find inspiration for cooking with the chile. It’s Central Market’s Hatch Green Chile Recipe Collection: