It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
No, not the holidays. Are you kidding me? Not with airline prices, the high likelihood of adverse weather events, and family spread out all over the Eastern Seaboard.
I’m talking about Hatch Chile Season, which spans roughly August through early September. Only during this short time frame can you obtain fresh, relatively inexpensive Hatch chiles; the rest o’ the year, you’re plumb outta luck unless you want to shell out big bucks for the inferior frozen variety. What’s the appeal of Hatch chiles? Their unique, fiery flavor and amazing versatility as an ingredient for a range of savory and sweet dishes.
In the past two decades, Central Market has become the central Texas locus for Hatch chile celebration and this year (their 20th anniversary!) they’ve outdone themselves with recipes, treats, and events featuring this favored pepper. Highlights of the many different Hatch-inflected foods on offer include Hatch Lime Cheesecake, a sweet with a bit of heat confection made with a mixture of roasted chiles, sour cream, cream cheese, and lime juice atop a butter graham cracker crust. Another lovely Hatch hybrid dessert are the Hatch Chocolate Chip and Hatch Chile Cajeta Cacahuete ice creams made by the dairy gods at High Road. The former variety melds cream, pureed roasted peppers, and sizeable chocolate chunks for a spicy yet refreshing flavor, while the latter combines roasted peanut, cajeta (a type of caramel made from goat’s milk), and a Hatch jelly to give rise to a sweet, nutty textured frozen treat. Finally, also spotted on shelves was a Hatch chile brownie, a fudgy square of dark chocolate and pepper topped (appropriately) with a frosted green chile.
If skipping straight to dessert is not your style, then go instead for Central Market’s Hatch meatball-stuffed poblano peppers. A juicy sphere of ground pork, cilantro, Monterey jack, cheddar, and cotija cheeses is lodged inside the poblano, which is then smothered in pesto cream, tomatillo gravy, and more cheese (why not?). It’s an incredibly rich dish with complex layers of bold tastes and textures; there’s also hatch turkey meatballs available for those without porcine predilections. Other amazing savory options include Hatch chile cheese grits, salmon with Hatch chile pesto, Hatch chile quesadillas, Hatch chile meatloaf….the list goes on and on.
On the lighter side of the Hatch chile culinary spectrum are delightful items such as the Hatch Kale Salad, a crisp and satisfying assemblage of kale, collard greens, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted Hatch chiles, Cotija cheese. A piquant Hatch lime vinaigrette ties all of the aforementioned elements together as well as adds a tangy note of spicy citrus.
These items may make you want to stay forever in the prepared food section of Central Market, but force yourself to move on because there’s more Hatch-themed delectable to be purchased in the cheese and bread areas, where bags Hatch chile scones, cornbread, and bagels are being snatched off shelves.
Drooling yet? Hop to it and go to Central market to get you Hatch on.
Central Market’s 2015 Hatch Chile Festival runs August 5th-18th. Go here for more details as well as a calendar of specific events.