Celebrating Hatch Chile, Austin Style

Chili Peppers in BasketAustin has a love affair with green Anaheim chilies. And we’re not in love with just any Anaheim chilies, but those grown in Hatch, a small town in southern New Mexico. And while we can get Hatch chilies year round at most of our local grocery stores in cans, or if we’ve planned ahead from our own freezer stash, for a few weeks every August, we’re lucky enough to wallow in the truckloads of fresh chilies shipped in from Hatch.

Having grown up not too far from Hatch, I can tell you that chilies from Hatch have their own terroir that’s unmatched by any other. If you don’t want to take my word for how special Hatch chilies are, take a gander at this taste test performed by the Statesman’s Addie Broyles. The bottom line is Hatch chilies aren’t your run of the mill green chilies, and we’re lucky enough to have a local passion for them that can’t be matched outside of Hatch, NM itself. In the coming month you’ll have ample opportunity to enjoy these wonderful chilies and I’ve put this post together to help you make the most of them.

I’ll be competing in the Whole Foods #ATXFoodFight project August 24 – August 30 during which I’ll pit a new green chile recipe against the best recipes of other Austin chile lovers. The winner is determined by the number of “retweets” on Twitter, so be on the lookout for my shameless pleas for votes on Twitter very soon.

The big three celebrations in town include:

  • Inside of a Hatch Chile Pepper

    A look inside a Hatch chile - Courtesy of Central Market

    August 18-31: Central Market’s 15th Anniversary Hatch Chile Festival – In what is certainly the biggest celebration of Hatch Chile, Central Market devotes two full weeks to all things green chile. Their stores will be roasting tons of chilies and they will feature specialty prepared foods that make the most of this wonderful ingredient. It’s not really possible to take the celebration in during just one visit, so I’d suggest stopping by three or four times at least to truly experience it.

  • August 28: Whole Foods Fired Up for Hatch Chile event—Whole Foods is joining in the Hatch Chile fun with a day of celebration in their flagship store. They will feature special chile dishes at all of the stations around the store and other related goodies.
  • August 30 – September 19: Chuy’s 22nd Annual Green Chile Festival – The folks at Chuy’s have been honoring the green chile for more than two decades now, and they continue their tradition with two weeks of special dishes and drinks. They’ll serve tilapia, pork, and beef in green chile concoctions and you can buy their spicy Hatch chile sauce in bottles to take home with you and enjoy long after the festival is over.

To truly make the most of our city-wide obsession with the lovely green chilies from Hatch, I recommend doing as many of the following as you possibly can:

  • Hatch Green Chilies Roasting

    Hatch Chilies Roasting - Courtesy of Central Market

    Watch the chilies roast. One of my strongest childhood memories is of green chilies roasting in huge drums over gas flames outside the grocery stores in El Paso. There’s nothing quite like the smell of roasting chilies – so earthy and warm. When you visit your local Central Market store during their festival, be sure to take a few minutes to stop and smell the chilies. It’s an experience everyone should have at least once.

  • Roast some chilies yourself. A chile’s skin isn’t particularly digestible and it doesn’t add much to flavor or texture, so most chile applications call for roasting them to remove the skin. If you’re going to cook with green chilies (or other kinds of peppers), it’s good to know how to roast them on your own. Gourmet Sleuth has a nice run down of the many different ways to roast a chile in the comfort of your own kitchen.
  • Try a new recipe. The best way I know to experience the glory of green chile is to make as many different dishes with it as you can. Over on Fete & Feast I’ve been posting new green chile recipes all month, and Central Market has a lovely collection featuring recipes from their contest winners and cooking school chefs. You can also search your favorite recipe sites like My Recipes and Epicurious for recipes that feature poblano peppers and use green chilies in them instead.
  • Sample a seasonal specialty. During their festival Central Market features a collection of chef prepared foods, bakery items, cheese, and gelato feturing Hach chilies, making it extra easy to try a new take on green chilies. Try a green chile meatloaf, Hatch pepper scones, freshly made green chile sausage, and more. Ask any partner or foodie at Central Market and they’ll tell you their favorite way to cook their special offerings.
  • Take a cooking class. Both Central Market and Whole Foods are featuring classes that will make it easier to do more with green chilies. During the Hatch Quick Fire Challenge you’ll find out how professional chefs use green chilies, and at Aunt Pearl’s Hatch Chile Fiesta you’ll laugh right through a tasty dinner. Hotter than Hatch will show you how to user green chilies in every course of a meal, and Hatch Chiles and Vegetarian Global Cuisine will take you on a global tour of meatless dishes.
  • Enter your favorite recipe in the Central Market recipe contest. If you have a favorite green chile recipe, consider entering it in Central Market’s 4th Annual Hatch Recipe contest. Every store will have a winner who will receive 75 lb. of chilies (fill your freezer!) and a $100 gift card. The entry deadline is August 29th, so get those entries in.
  • Let someone else do the cooking. While it’s all sorts of fun to prepare green chilies in your own kitchen, there’s no reason not to let someone else do the cooking (and cleaning) once in a while. Be sure to visit Whole Foods on August 28th to sample the green chile creations at the mini-restaurants around the store and of course plan for a trip or two to Chuy’s to sample their limited-time specials.

As you’re out and about enjoying our city-wide love affair with Hatch Chilies over the next few weeks, be sure to leave a comment letting all of us know about what fun you’ve had our any fun products you’ve enjoyed. You can also post about your adventures or upload photos over the Austin Food Lovers’ Companion Facebook page.

1 Comment

  1. Need some ideas on how to use your Hatch chiles? Check out my New Mexico cookbook,”A Tale of Two Chiles”. We live 40 miles from Hatch, so are in heaven right now with the chile harvest in full swing!

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