I’m a fanatic – an unabashed Hatch Green Chile evangelist – as you regulars at AMCC most likely know by now. I didn’t just catch the chile fever that has swept the country in recent years, I was born into it and am convinced it was a key component in my baby food. All joking aside, I did actually use hatch green chiles in some of my son’s baby food recipes – verdict, a huge hit! So enamored with these green, roasted pods of heaven am I, that I lugged the allowed amount of roasted hatch green chiles across the Canadian border each year when we lived in Alberta. I spread the gift of the green far and wide in the great white north and our homemade salsa became a de rigueur Christmas gift for our beloved Canadians.
These days, many high-end grocery stores around the country feature Hatch Green Chile roasting events when they’re in season – thank goodness! But back when I was a kid living in West Texas, it was a little-known regional secret. The Hatch Valley in New Mexico was a mere 5 hours from where I grew up. Our grocery stores would have rotating, perforated steel drums out front where they would roast the chiles over an open flame as Whole Foods, Wegmans and Central Market do now. We would wait with unrestrained joy for around the first of August to roll around, which usually heralds the beginning of Hatch Green Chile season. We’d eat hatch green chile-infused dishes for days and would bag up the remaining pounds to freeze for the year ahead.
A year in Santa Fe only strengthened my life-long soul tie to this magical ingredient. Armed with the Tex-Mex of my youth, I added the flavors of New Mexican cuisine to my culinary rolodex and have treasured them ever since. These days, I’ll use the inimitable flavor of a Hatch Green just about any time a pepper is called for, regardless of the style of cuisine. It almost always lends an unexpected layer of bliss and complexity.
So what is all the hype about? Well, Hatch Green Chiles, the only chiles legitimately granted the lofty title, are only grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. With just around 10,000 acres harvested annually and a season of a mere two months, these green vixens are in serious demand now that word is officially out. Among the capsicum annuum family, Hatch Green Chiles have varietal variations that range from mild to quite hot. But it’s the sandy loam soil, diurnal shifts (hot days and cool nights) and nurturing waters of the local Rio Grande that make the terroir of the Land of Enchantment’s Hatch Valley simply without equal. The sensory masterpiece of spicy, savory and almost sweet is unlike any other pepper in the world and its legacy is also quite impressive. Accounts differ, but chile peppers were definitely brought in by the Spanish and were cultivated (arguably) as early as the 1580’s. As the Spanish settled in the area, chiles became a major crop. Today, Hatch Green Chiles are grown on some of these original cultivated lands; many farms go back several generations and have a rich history all their own.
For me, Hatch Green Chiles are more than just a nice ingredient, they are a flavor that lingers in my sense memory and reminds of an aroma and comfort food that knows few equals. I don’t know when I had my first Hatch Green Chile; I just simply cannot remember life without them. This past week, I made my way home from picking Davis up from his grandparents in Texas and, along with all my toddler gear, I toted home 10 pounds of fresh Hatch Chiles for the year ahead. I roasted them at home and we’re currently living off the bounty. Tonight, I’m making Hatch Green Chile Stew, which is a classic and one of my all-time favorites. So, give this heart-warming stew a whirl and stay tuned for more Hatch Green Chile recipes in the weeks ahead.
Hatch Green Chile Stew
I fell in love with this traditional New Mexican dish when I was living in Santa Fe. Over the years, I’ve made it my own as far as measurements, oils, and tiny tweaks are concerned. Nevertheless, I’m a purist when it comes to Hatch Green Chile Stew – you really just can’t improve on perfection, right!
- 2 pounds of pork (pork shoulder, pork butt or even thick chops will do), dried and dusted with salt and pepper, seared then diced
- 2 pounds potatoes (I prefer golden, but russets work as well), diced then dusted with salt and pepper
- 5 roasted hatch green chiles, peeled and chopped (mild to hot is your preference)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- chicken stock
Dry, salt and pepper your pork; if you’re using a butt or shoulder, chop into quarters. Coat a dutch oven with avocado oil or any other oil with a high smoke point then add ½ teaspoon each of cumin and rubbed sage. Sear the meat on medium-high heat – around 2 minutes per side then set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the dutch oven, add the potatoes and toss with the remaining ½ teaspoon of cumin and sage. Get a light, even sear on your potatoes then add the remaining ingredients. Cover with chicken stock and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil for a minute then turn down to medium-low, cover the pot and let it simmer for one hour. Twenty minutes prior to serving, pull off the lid, salt and pepper to taste and allow the liquid to reduce a bit. Ladle into bowls and serve!
If you’d like to find Hatch Green Chiles in your area, here’s a few links to help you on your way:
If you don’t have a local purveyor, the Hatch Chile Store will ship straight to your door: