They are, for a handful of weeks each year, ubiquitous: large, green Hatch chiles that pack a smoky-hot punch on everything from cheesesteaks to pizzas to breakfast sandwiches. Grown in New Mexico’s Hatch Valley, the peppers are available regionally for a short time each fall, sold in grocery stores like Whole Foods, where they’re available fresh ($1.99/pound) or roasted ($3.99/pound). If you’re not an expert on this spicy delicacy, you can still enjoy chile season. Here are three tips for maximum appreciation from Whole Foods Henderson Produce Manager Jesse Rivera:
1. Roasted, not raw. Unlike jalapeños, you don’t want to mess with raw Hatch chiles, Rivera says. “If you eat them raw they’re going to be super hot.” Roasted, they lend a deep heat to things like sausages and salsas, both of which you can pick up at Whole Foods.
2. Take them outside. If you’re going to buy hot varieties raw and roast them yourself, Rivera advises using an outdoor grill to keep the spicy smoke out of your kitchen. When the skin is black and blistered, throw your peppers in a plastic bag and seal so they steam for a few minutes. Then, remove and the skin should peel right off.
3. Stock up. Hatch fanatics tend to buy sacks to roast and freeze for the months ahead. Follow their lead, or use them right away to spice up sandwiches, add a kick to eggs or put some zing in fajitas or guacamole.