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The Hatch Chile O.C. Connection
Mild, medium, hot―or extra hot? Lots of options for stocking a year’s supply of the New Mexico staple
Harvest time is here for Hatch chiles, so called because they’re grown in Hatch, New Mexico. But you don’t have to be from that state to love the bright-green chiles that come in gradations of heat from mild to seriously extra-hot. Tim Gonzales of TJ’s Woodfire Pizza is from New Mexico, and often has secret-menu green chiles that can be added to his otherwise quite classic pies. I love them on a TJ’s quattro formaggio.
“Orange County loves Hatch chiles,” says Karen Caplan, CEO of Los Alamitos-based Frieda’s Produce, which roasts at Ralphs markets. “At least, that’s what we found out at our roasting events. From the conversation we had with our Hatch chile fans, there are a lot of native New Mexicans who now live in O.C.”
The Hatch tradition has resulted in cross-fertilization, too. Orange County public relations maven Lee Healy is also something of a Hatch expert. “I first became acquainted with Hatch chiles through my future father-in-law, Ramon Cano, who was from Mesilla, New Mexico—a small, historic town not far from the Hatch Valley in the southern part of the state. It was clear from the get-go this was something they take seriously, and is an intrinsic part of their culinary culture.”
I’ll have Lee’s Cano family recipe for Hatch green chile salsa in the blog next week, along with her roasting instructions. She likes the chiles Melissa’s Produce sells at Bristol Farms, but does her own roasting at home because the barrel roasters blacken too much for her taste.
And anyone who’s ever donned protective gloves to peel a quantity of hot chiles will love this tip from Lee: There’s no need to skin the roasted chiles before freezing. Let cool, then “pop them in Ziploc quart-size freezer bags skins, seeds, and all” she says. “Date the bag and presto—you have Hatch chiles to use all year long.” After thawing, skins slip right off. For future chile rellenos, sort the bigger chiles and pack separately.
But most Hatch fans do take advantage of the free roasting service offered with purchase before freezing the roasted chiles for year-round use. Chiles are sold by the case or sack, either of which can weigh up to 30 pounds. If you don’t need quite that volume, most stores have by-the-pound purchase, too.
O.C. Hatch Chile Roasting 2014
Click on store names for addresses, hours, and prices.
Sunday, Aug. 17: Anaheim, Northgate Gonzalez.
Sunday, Aug. 24: Huntington Beach and Tustin, Ralphs.
Saturday, Aug. 30: Newport Beach, Bristol Farms.