The Pandemic Can't Stop Hatch Chile Season

Popular in New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado, green chiles are the best harbingers of fall.

Photo: Victor Protasio

The slow glide from the last days of summer to the first days of fall comes with certain telltale signifiers, even before the leaves change. In New York, the farmers' markets start to fill up with varieties of apples and accompanying ciders. Sweaters start appearing on passersby, and the dry cleaners ready coats for the next months of heavy use. And if you're very lucky, you might run across a Hatch chile roast.

Hatch chiles are not native to New York. They're famously a New Mexican staple, named after the Hatch Valley in that state, although they're also popular throughout the Southwest and southern California. But New York City is a place with many homesick New Mexicans, and so now and then a chile roaster, the regional sign of fall in the Southwest, sets up shop on a corner, and you can go snag a bag of freshly roasted peppers without taking a flight to Albuquerque.

Last year I got mine from Kalustyan's, a cult favorite grocery store in Manhattan that is as close to an encyclopedic ingredient emporium as you can get. This year, the Zia Green Chile Company set up a roaster just a few blocks from my house, so I could collect five pounds of peppers without taking the subway.

Hatch chilies are harvested between mid-August and mid-October. Their flavor isn't necessarily super spicy. The chiles range in spiciness from fairly mild to very hot, though they're most often found in the medium-to-hot range. If you aren't in the Southwest, and finding a chile roaster seems unlikely, that's OK. You can buy Hatch chiles jarred or frozen to be shipped to your house. Check your local grocer and see — I've had luck finding them at Whole Foods. They even appear occasionally at Trader Joe's. If you're not much of a whole chili person but you like the flavor, you can also purchase Hatch chili powder to use as a seasoning. Just keep in mind that the green hatch chiles have a smokier flavor, and the ripe red Hatch chiles are slightly sweeter.

What do you do once you have a bunch of Hatch chiles on hand? Oh, friend, there's no bad answer.

If they aren't already roasted, you can roast them at home, either under the broiler or over a gas flame until the skin blackens and shrivels in spots. Peel them, stem them, and seed them, and turn them into all manner of delights. Cheeseburgers with Hatch green chile are a New Mexico staple, and recreating them at home is not a bad call. Hatch chiles go really well with cheese, and incorporating them into your next heavily cheese-based meal is a good idea. I've added mine to lasagna and macaroni and cheese with great success. If you have the dried and powdered varietal, you could replace the black pepper in cacio e pepe with Hatch seasoning for a spicier version of an Italian classic. Chopped up Hatch chiles are also an incredible addition to a cheese sauce or queso.

Of course, you can also use Hatch chiles in actual chili, like this chicken chile verde. They make a killer Hatch chile salsa, a simple sauce that you can pour in basically anything you eat. Hatch chile enchiladas are hearty and flavorful, full of smoky spiciness from the peppers. They're great in burritos, tacos, or freeform nachos. Get some Hatch chiles, eat them in everything, and savor one fall activity that the pandemic hasn't canceled.

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