Chile harvesting time in New Mexico is a special time. We wait all year for the first lime green pods to show up on produce shelves and the enormous iron roasting drums powered by huge propane tanks to appear at the front of every grocery store. So I was really excited when this was the Albuquerque Journal’s headline last week:
As a state, our love of New Mexican varietals of green chile (such as Hatch) borders on obsession. We roast chile, we stuff chile, we fry chile, we makes soups and stews out of chile and we smother our food in chile. We take it with us when we move away (I can attest to that!). It’s even our state vegetable (yes, really).
Our state question (Red or Green?) refers to the question asked in restaurants across the state: do you want red or green chile on your [insert breakfast/lunch/dinner/dessert item here].
The secret of our obsession is about more than heat; our green chile has an incredible flavor you just can’t find anywhere else. And to get that flavor, you have to roast it! So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to cover the basics of roasting chile, a method that can also be used to roast bell peppers and other types of chile/chilis like Anaheim!
The Specifics: How to Roast Green Chile
Not many of us have a huge iron roasting drum with an enormous propane tank attached, so thankfully there are several ways you can roast at home:
- On a grill
- Over the flames of a gas stove
- In the oven
I have access to neither a grill nor a gas stove so I will be talking mostly about oven roasting (although apart from roasting the peppers over an open flame, the procedures really aren’t that different).
Note: Chile comes in mild, medium and hot. While they all have fantastic flavor, I would stick to mild if you don’t like heat.
Big Note: When handling green chile from start to finish, I highly recommend using gloves. The capcasin that makes chile/chili peppers so hot transfers easily to skin and your hands will start to burn. This note is especially important if you accidentally touch your eyes. From personal experience, I can tell you that touching your eyes after touching chile is not pleasant.
The steps for roasting chile are:
- Rinse your chile pods, dry them thoroughly and put them on a baking pan. Place an oven rack in the position closest to the top heat source and turn the oven to broil (or the highest heat setting).
- Place the pan of chile under the broiler (make sure it doesn’t actually touch the heat source. If so, just move the oven rack down). Check every two minutes or so—you’re looking for the skin of the chile to turn black and blister.
As each side becomes black and blistered, use tongs to turn the pepper onto another side. It’s okay if you don’t get every part of the pepper; most of the skin will still come off.
- Whether you’re roasting on the grill, on the stove top or in the oven, once the peppers are black and blistered, place them in a plastic bag and tie it shut. The trapped steam released from the hot peppers will help the skin separate from the meat.
Alternately, you can place the peppers on a cutting board and place a bowl over them.
This step takes about 15 minutes.
- Place the peppers on a cutting board (I usually cover mine with foil but was so busy taking pictures I forgot). You can use a spoon, the back of a knife or your fingers to remove the skin—it should come off easily, but you may need to work at a few spots.
- Cut the pepper open by slicing down one side (especially if you want to usethe chile whole, as for a relleno), cut the top off then scrape out any remaining seeds with the knife or spoon.
And voila! You have roasted green chile.
There are two things you can now do with the chile:
- Use it right away
- Put it in a Ziploc bag, label it with the date, and freeze it
Besides the usual dishes like green chile stew and rellenos, there are so many, many things you can do with roasted green chile. Just a few ideas:
- In your mac’n’cheese
- In your omelette or scrambled eggs
- On your burger or egg sandwich
- In your biscuit dough
- In your grits or cornbread
- In your bread
- In your apple pie
The list is pretty much endless (especially if you live in New Mexico).
Someday in the near future, I’ll be talking about family recipes for green chile stew, green chile sauce and red chile sauce (especially as the weather gets colder).
Have a good week, and don’t forget to ask questions and/or comment below!