Around town you can see the chile roasters in place at HEB, Whole Foods, Randall's and Fiesta grocery stores, with their mesh wire tumbling cages at the ready. All over New Mexico and the Southwest, similar enactments are occurring. People have green chile fever!
Ranging from mild to medium to hot, green chiles are flavorful as well as spicy. They will scorch a tongue, bring tears to your eyes and sweat to your brow, or merely give off a zesty tang reminiscent of a bell pepper. No matter the type of connoisseur you are or your level of spice tolerance, there is a chile for you.
Roasting the chile is the gateway to unlocking its gastronomical and nutritional benefits. Once roasted, it becomes very versatile. It then can be used to make salsas, chile rellenos, and a variety of chile stews. Green chile is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as minerals: potassium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.
The first step starts with the chile selection. There are many types of green chili. For example, Anaheim, Big Jim, Sandia, Heritage Big Jim, and Sandia Select. They basically look the same, so the taste and meatiness is what sets them apart. The other way they are distinguished is by the name Hatch. Hatch is a farming community just outside of Truth or Consequences, along the Rio Grande. Hatch is a Mecca for chile lovers.
Basically, you would like the chiles as fresh as possible. Wrinkles on the chile can help you determine how long they have been sitting in the store. Since it's the start of the season, there is no reason not to get the smoothest, bounciest, fattest chiles you can.
Once you have your chiles you can begin the roasting process. There are many ways to roast chiles. The easiest way is to have somebody else roast them for you. Oftentimes, the price is included along with your purchase of a certain amount of pounds. In New Mexico, the price of roasting was included in our purchase of a 40 pound bag. But not everybody can use 40 pounds, or would want to. In Austin, there is a nominal fee for for tumbling your chiles on a roaster.
But you can do that at home. I used to grill the Big Jims over coals outdoors, or on a cast-iron skillet on the stove. There are any number of ways to blister the skin so that you are able to peel. But now, I stick them in the broiler for about 8 to 10 minutes, then turn them every 2 to 4 minutes until the skin is blistered evenly, and the chile is limp.
Once the roasting is complete, have a dishtowel ready to wrap the chilies up in snugly for about 15 minutes. This allows them to steam with there own heat, causing the skin to separate and making them easier to peel. In some cases the skin slides off easily with little or no effort.
Ready to Eat
If you have followed all the steps you should be looking at some luscious green chilies ready to be made into any number of dishes. There is much to choose from and you are limited only by your imagination, from bean and potato green chile stew to chile rellenos, and one of our staples, the green chile quesadilla with sprouts.
Enjoy the season, because we only have a limited time before the red chile starts. Happy eating!