Better get moving -- or you'll miss out on Hatch chiles.The season for these prized chiles from New Mexico starts August 8 and lasts to the end of September. Because time is short, Hatch fans buy huge batches, then roast the chiles and store them in the freezer.
What's so special about Hatch chiles? "Besides the heat, Hatch has more flavor," says Ida Rodriguez, co-author with Sharon Hernandez of Melissa's Hatch Chile Cookbook. They're not like California's popular Anaheim chile, although they may appear similar. "You can tell the difference if you have an educated palate," Hernandez says.
And don't try to plant Hatch seeds here. The chiles won't be like those from Hatch, New Mexico. As with wine, it's a matter of terroir.
Rodriguez is Melissa's corporate chef, and Hernandez is co-owner of the company, which is located in Vernon. The first printing of their book is sold out -- that's how popular Hatch chiles are. More copies are on the way. You can get them from Melissa's or Amazon.
Rodriguez says she looks at the Hatch "not as a chile but as an ingredient. It's not just for Mexican or Southwestern cooking, it's for all cuisines."
The 150 recipes in the book range from salsas, deviled eggs, potato salad and cornbread to chocolate chip cookies, ice cream and a milkshake. One of the simplest is Hatch chile ice cubes to drop into tall cold drinks.
Hatch chiles come in different heat levels, from mild to really fiery. If you miss out on the fresh season, you can get dried Hatch chiles, either whole or ground.
Roasting makes the thick-walled, meaty fresh chiles even more flavorful and improves the texture. During the season, L.A. markets such as Bristol Farms and Whole Foods will hold Hatch roasting sessions.
You can taste the chiles even before the season starts. On July 24 at 2:30 p.m., Zapien's Salsa Grill & Taqueria in Pico Rivera will stage a Hatch Chile Feast featuring dishes from the cookbook. Admission is $40, which includes a copy of the book, and Rodriguez will be there to sign copies. Reserve by July 19. Call (800) 588-1281 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hatch Chocolate Chip Cookies
From: Melissa's Hatch Chile Cookbook
Makes: about 4 dozen
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a handheld mixer or stand mixer to cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs, then stir in the vanilla.
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2. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt, then mix in the chocolate chips and chiles.
3. Drop the dough by large spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake until the cookies begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Read more from Barbara Hansen at TableConversation.com, EatMx.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook; Hansen also contributed to The Korean Restaurant Guide: Los Angeles. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.