New Mexico is home to many fine things. Neil Patrick Harris, for example. The Clovis point and the atomic bomb are on two extremes. Bugs Bunny took a right turn when he should have taken a left in Albuquerque. It gives Texans their own place to snow ski. And an entire town has made a business from feeding off of tourists who believe that our government has covered up, for nearly 70 years, secret alien visits.
One of my personal favorites is the Hatch green chile. Developed over 100 years ago by selective breeding from locally cultivated chiles that had been grown for centuries by the Native Americans and early Spanish settlers, the Hatch is grown through the Hatch Valley areas and is prized for its distinctive flavor. Although you can buy canned Hatch chiles throughout the year (as well as some that claim the label Hatch but are not the real thing), late summer is fresh Hatch chile season. Farmer’s markets are a good place to find the chiles, if you don’t actually live in southern New Mexico. In my area, however, the best place to secure them is at a Texas-based grocery chain who, well, goes a little crazy during Hatch season.
The stores set up big roasters near the entrance, and roast full boxes at a time, then package them up into one- or two-pound bags, in either regular or hot. Usually when I grab a bag or two, they are still warm. Home, I spend time to rub/wash off the charred skin, then package them up in smaller quantities, usually by spreading them out in single layers, freezing, then stacking into freezer bags. More than one of my friends will buy two cases, one of each heat index, and spend an entire day and many tears prepping them for the freezer.
What do you do with these little bundles of joy? My repertoire involves making green chile chicken enchiladas, stirring them into soups, stews, posole, beans, or throwing a bit into any dish that needs some flavor or a bit of heat. I never know whether to ration them throughout the year, or go for broke and enjoy them as a fleeting pleasure, like spring wildflowers or a shooting star. Sure, they’ll be back, but the waiting is hard.
Below, I offer you a selection that, while not a complete inventory of what is currently available, gives you an idea of what you can try out, if you aren’t inclined to cook for yourself.