Food & Drink

Bonnie Aeschliman: How to roast, freeze Hatch chiles

What’s so hot about Hatch chiles? First of all, Hatch chiles are not a variety like poblano or jalapeno. They are Hatch chiles because they only grow in Hatch, N.M., where the hot days and cool nights give the chiles a bright, lively flavor unlike chiles grown elsewhere.

Hatch chiles are highly celebrated in New Mexico and even in neighboring Texas with festivals featuring the long, green, mild-to-spicy pepper. Thousands of tourists flood the tiny town of Hatch to sample a myriad of dishes from Hatch salsas to Hatch ice cream – they are very creative with these special peppers. This legendary chile has turned Hatch, N.M., into the Chile Capital of the world.

Hatch chiles have arrived straight from the farms of New Mexico and are now available in Wichita markets. Chile aficionados are buying them by the bag, pound and even bushels. And some have questions about their prized purchases.

Q. Now that I have purchased several Hatch chiles, how do I roast them to remove the skin.

A. Rinse and drain the chiles. Pierce each chile near the stem end and tip with the point of a sharp knife. Line a baking sheet with foil and place chiles on the baking sheet, leaving space between each one for air to circulate. Place chiles on the top shelf of the oven and broil until the skins are blistered and blackened, turning them so all sides will blister. This will take about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a plastic or paper bag, sealing it to let the peppers steam as they cool. When cool, remove the skin, stem and seeds.

Chiles may also be roasted over an open flame or on the grill, turning them until all sides are darkened and blistered.

Q: Johnson’s Garden Center brings in Hatch chiles and even roasts them for you. When I discovered that, I was so excited and went overboard and bought a bushel. That’s a lot of chiles. I have given some away but I want to freeze some for later use. How is the best way?

A: After removing peel, seeds and stem, you may freeze them whole or chop them. Place enough for one recipe in a small freezer bag, seal bag tightly and label with contents and date. To use, thaw in refrigerator or microwave; do not set out at room temperature to thaw.

Some like to chop chiles and freeze small amounts in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop them out of the ice cube trays, and place the small cubes in a freezer bag and keep frozen. This is convenient when you need only a small amount.

Tips For Handling Hot Chiles

• When working with large quantities of chiles or very hot chiles, it’s a good idea to wear kitchen gloves. If the chile oils get into any small cuts or abrasions on your hands, it will burn.

• Never touch your hands near your eyes during or after working with fresh chiles.

• After handling chiles, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove the chile oils from the skin.