In a year in which time has come to mean almost nothing, here we are at Labor Day–that weird pause that declares summer to be over even if it’s really not yet fall.
I have two tells, though, for this transition. The first is in late August when there’s always one day in which the harsh light of summer changes to something slightly more subtle, more refracted.
The other is the start of Hatch chile season. The chiles, also known as Big Jims, are grown in one region, the Hatch Valley, along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, although it’s also an umbrella term for the green chiles grown throughout New Mexico. It could be the elevation that makes them so distinctive or perhaps it’s the volcanic soil. Or the hot days and cool evenings. Or the combination of all three, plus its short August/September season. It really doesn’t matter. They’re delicious. And they’re available beyond New Mexico. I find them in markets in San Diego this time of year and already have seen them.
But everything that’s of value comes at a price. Hatch chiles are a bit labor intensive to prepare initially since they require roasting and peeling/seeding.
You could do it on the grill but really all you need are heavy cookie sheets, and the oven broiler. There’s no special trick to it. Just line them up in a single layer and fire them up. Let your nose tell you when they’re ready to be turned–once–and then removed from the oven. You’ll get the distinctive aroma of burning chiles and, indeed, they should be well charred.
Then gather them into plastic or paper bags, close the opening, and let them steam for about 10 to 15 minutes. This helps loosen the thick skin from the flesh. Then peel off the skin, remove the stem and seeds, and chop or slice them. I bag what I don’t use immediately and put them in the freezer, so I have them to use the rest of the year.
While Hatch chiles are a go to for posole or other stews, omelets and frittatas, and, well with anything you’d usually add chiles to, it is going to be Labor Day this weekend, so how about Hatch Chile Potato Salad to go with your socially distanced picnic? This potato salad has some heat but also the smoky flavor of the chiles combined with slow roasted tomatoes and garlic in a lemon-garlic dressing.
Hatch Chile Potato Salad
Serves four as a side dish
1 pound red potatoes (baby or regular size)
1 large shallot, finely minced
2 large roasted Hatch chiles (about 1.5 ounces), peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large pieces of sun-dried or oven roasted tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
Lemon-Garlic Dressing (see below)
1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add whole, unpeeled potatoes and cook until tender (about 15 to 20 minutes).
2. While potatoes are cooking, make the Lemon-Garlic Dressing and prep the other ingredients.
3. When potatoes are fork-tender, remove from heat and drain in a colander. When they’re still warm but cool enough to handle, slice or quarter them into bite-sized pieces. Add to a large bowl with the shallots, chiles, tomatoes, parsley, and about 3/4 of the scallions. Reserve the rest for garnish.
4. Pour enough dressing over the potato mixture to moisten it, then toss to mix well. Let sit so the potatoes absorb the dressing. If necessary, add more dressing before serving. Top with the rest of the scallions.
Makes about 1/2 cup
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 to 3 tablespoons)
A mix of herbs (I use chives, epazote, and parsley)
Kosher salt to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine the first four ingredients, then slowly whisk in oil until the dressing thickens.
Do you enjoy cooking with Hatch chiles? How do you cook with them?
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