Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I ventured north to Hatch, New Mexico, for the annual Hatch Chile Festival. The festival is so old-world Americana that you can’t help but feel as if you’ve been teleported into a classic Western film. You come over the hilltop and there, in the middle of the desert, are green rows of pepper plants and a carnival with lemonade stands, buttered corn carts, tented tables selling trinkets, and rainbow strings of peppers for as far as the eye can see. All of that is positioned around the open Hatch pavilion—a covered flooring that provides shade for the sun-soaked. Every year, the festival weather is nothing less than a bazillion degrees so the pavilion with its alternating mariachis and western music is a godsend. All of those are peripheral pleasures, however. The real star is the world-famous Hatch chile pepper and there’s nothing like buying them fresh from the source. So, we picked our pecks of peppers. Truthfully, I haven’t a clue how much is in a peck, but our purchase was 15 lbs of Hatch jalapeños and 20 lbs of Hatch green chiles, which they roasted on the spot. That’s the beauty of the festival. Every stand has a roaster churning green peps black and sending up heat waves of peppery goodness. You could eat the air.
We carted back our edible goods plus one string of decorative red chiles for the house. Some of the strands were taller than me—granted I’m kind of a small fry—so I chose one that didn’t feel like a Sarah pepper replacement.
All this is to say that I’ve been reading cookbooks. I can’t even begin to list them all because I’ve thumbed through so many. Our refrigerator and freezer are packed with peppers to last us through the year, and I’m on a mission to see how many different ways there are to incorporate the scrumptious Hatch chile.
A few of the successful recipes I made this weekend include:
Green Chile Pancakes
Pulled Chicken in Green Chile Sauce
Green Chile Mac & Cheese
Green Chile & Roasted Tomato Chicken Salad
But my husband and I love a plain roasted pepper sprinkled with sea salt best. We’ve been grazing on those for days. My fingers smell like peppers. My lips tingle from the heat. I’ve been out this way for so long now that roasted peppers have become my indicator of fall. At home in Virginia, it was apple harvests and pumpkin picking. I still miss those scents lingering about, but having some of the finest chiles in the world at my doorstep is a nice consolation prize.
No, I’m not drinking a crazy pepper-inspired brew. With a slight chill in the air (El Paso chill=80 degrees), I’m sipping a cup of Capital of Heaven Keemun, which I posted on back in May while copyediting The Baker’s Daughter. I haven’t had it since then and forgot how smooth and sweet it is. It’s quite a wonderful balance to the acidic pepperiness of my palate right now. The taste is almost honey-like, but not in a cloying way. Plus the frugal fanny in me was delighted to be able to brew two solid cups out of one teaspoon of tealeaves. (Mucho cost effective!) I just tried for a third cup and while still fragrant, it lacked that tea pungency that I crave.
Sarah’s Sipping Summary:
As I mentioned above, I believe the mellow honeysuckle sweetness is a nice respite from the capsaicin. My tongue thanks the tea as I flip through my current cookbook in search of tonight’s nomnom. I’m thinking a chicken chile bake or maybe pulled chile chicken in lettuce cups… hmm, so many options.
Cheers, my dears, Sarah