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Aug 24, 2009 08:00 AM

What makes Hatch chiles special? Roast Hatch chiles=human catnip?

A poster on the SF board asked

"Please, please forgive my ignorance, but I would like to ask here what exactly makes a hatch chile so extraordinary? I've heard the name spoken of loads of times, but I don' t think I've ever tried them myself. Would these be the chile equivalent of, say, what poulet de bresse is for chicken?"

This thread which asked why people buy large quantities more addresses some of the issues for quantity ... they freeze well and work with so many dishes.

But still ... it doesn't answer the real question. I guess most roast peppers freeze well. What is it about those peppers that puts people in a mild panic when the last bag is open.

Someone suggested there's truly something additctive about them. People get headaches whne the last peppers are used ... Hatch withdrawal.

But as many people have said it is diffecult to describe. There's an added earthy complexity.

Some might write it off as New Mexican nostalgia. The air this time of year filled with the aroma of roasting peppers.

I don't think that is it though. I've been to New Mexico twice in my life, both times on the freeway and not during pepper season. My roots are in New England and yet this weekend I plan to buy a 25 lb box.

The first time I had them was in a bowl of green chile stew and I was unimpressed. I tried a small quantily three years back and was unmoved. Then two years ago I bought five pounds fresh from the roaster and well, I WAS hooked. I can't really say why. Here's a link to that year with lots of recipes.

It wasn't love at first taste, but over time I found myself more enchanted leading to a passion for the pepper.

Maybe it just like a person who oozes charisma and draws others to them but you can't really say why that is. They stand out from the crowd and somehow sparkle.

Anyway, can anyone really say what it is that makes these peppers so special?

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  1. What makes them special is the place and the people. The soil of that part of New Mexico is unlike the soils of Arizona or southern Calif or west Texas. Then you add in the people who plant and nurture and harvest them. They recognize that they've got "something special" going on there, and work to keep that feeling.

    Damn... now I'm having Hatch withdrawal... I'm in Florida where they've never heard of Hatches.

    2 Replies
    1. re: KiltedCook

      The people in Dallas, where i was born and live... do not get it. I have had a time using every description I can to get them to 'get it'.

      1. re: KiltedCook

        I'm another person who is addicted to green chile. I spent several years in abq and den. At first, I didn't get it, but after trying green chicle a few times, at different places, I was hooked. I prefer it in "suace" format -roasted, peeled and slow cooked with pork, then ladled on almost every mexican dish. When it's done right, it's almost buttery, and velvety. The mellowness of the heat is really nice too.
        To put it another way: I have concocted a recipe to make a really good green chile out of midwestern grown anaheims and big jims. I offered some to my csa grower a few years ago. Last year he grew 30 lbs of these peppers for free wityh caveat that i make him a few quarts of the sauce. He is growing 60 lbs of these peppers this year for him and I to split. Once you get some of the good stuff, you'll KNOW it.

      2. Someone posted this on the SF board that really is a shame to get lost there.

        From the LA board, a reply describing why Hatch chiles are special:

        <<< ... the hatch chiles are meaty and very flavorful--a more nuanced flavor than other roasted chiles, i think. (they are kinda like san marzano tomatoes, in that the conditions and growing expertise in hatch make a perfect climate for growing these chiles. like the volcanic soil in san marzano, paired with that specific varietal of tomato make those legendary. you can grow a san marzano type tomato elsewhere, but it won't taste the same. just like these chiles.
        )when i got my 30 lb. last year, i froze them in dozens. (i think i ended up with 14 glorious zip-locks full!) i've been portioning them out through the year, for chile verde, burgers, soups, casseroles (hatch chile mac n cheese is not to be missed) and more. i'm ready for my next batch in a few weeks. btw, the smell of your car on the way home from the roasting is an amazing thing!

        chez cherie Jul 16, 2009 06:16AM>>>

        1. Yep, it's the terroir, that special combination not achievable elsewhere of farmer, farming techniques, soil, light, temperature, precipitation/irrigation/water and humidity (well, rather lack therof.) Just like a true Vidalia onion is different from a Texas sweet. Texas sweets are good eating and I love 'em but they are a different onion than Videlias even if grown from the SAME genetically identical seed stock; same thing for the Hatch chile.

          It's the difference between a hum and a clear bell-like note.

          1. This doesn't exactly answer the question, but is an interesting article from New Mexicon State University that LewisvilleHounder provided in a Texas thread

            The Chile Cultivars of New Mexico State University Released from 1913 to 1993 (pdf)

            I thought this was intersting ...

            ".Dr. Garcia thought that if he made the chiles milder, consumption would increase
            among the Anglo population ... He improved native chile by selecting and cross breeding. His goal was to produce a chile cultivar that was a “larger, smoother, fleshier, more tapering and shoulderless pod for canning purposes.” He selected 14 chile accessions growing in the Las Cruces area. The lines were from pasilla (dark brown), colorado (red), and negro (black) chiles."

            It goes on to describe the types of peppers and how they were developed.

            1. Last year I had a chance to order the green chile dip at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. From the menu: "H. Nam-Prik-Noom (Green Chili Dip) 9.95
              Roasted green chili, garlic, onion and tomato pounded in mortar. One of the most popular and spicy dips of Northern Thailand , eaten with sticky rice, fried pork skin and fresh vegetables. (Medium Spicy and up)"

              Besides being fiery hot, the chile material itself had so much volume and depth of flavor. I asked the owner, Bill Chutima, what type of green chile pepper he used. After telling me it was a secret mix of various green chiles, I got him to fess up that the main one was "like an Anaheim chile". I pressed further, and he said, "They're from Hatch, New Mexico." And, then I understood what made Lotus of Siam's taste so special.

              Lotus of Siam
              953 E Sahara Ave Ste A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104

              1 Reply
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                HA! Well, there's a little fusion for you.