Posted by: cassymuronaka | August 18, 2010

Last Chance at the Hatches

Saturday marks the last day that a local supermarket chain sponsors a Hatch green chile purchase and roast. For those unfamiliar with these chiles, they originate in the town of Hatch, New Mexico, and are the basis for what is probably state’s most famous dish: Chile Verde.

You can use other chiles for this recipe, but purists will tell you that you’re just plain wrong and the taste never will be the same.

For several years now, Albertson’s has been selling 30-pound burlap bags of fresh Hatch chiles during the annual August harvest season. Free roastings are offered on different Saturdays at the store locations where the chiles can be bought. The last sale and roast of the year will be held at the Albertson’s on Whittier Boulevard, in La Habra. Beginning at 6 a.m, diehard Hatch fans can buy the chiles for $32.99 a bag and line up for the 8 am roasting, which will run through 2 pm.

There are other chile roasts scheduled in L.A. county, most notably at Bristol Farms and locations where El Rey Farms sells its chiles, one of which is held in the parking lot of La Puente High School. However, the Albertson’s chile bags are probably the cheapest and there is no extra charge for the roasting.

It’s up to you to lug the steaming bag home, skin and seed the chiles and then decide what you are going to do with 30 pounds of fresh roasted Hatch chiles.

Old pros who have attended more than one chile roast know to bring cold bottles of water, hats, parasols, deck chairs, car floor coverings (in case the liquid from the hot black trash bags full of roasted chiles leak), because while it can take mere minutes to purchase and roast your chiles, you aren’t the only person interested in doing this. Depending on how early you are able to drag yourself out of bed on a Saturday morning, you can spend from about two to four hours until you finally put your chiles in the trunk of your car.

Last year I made the commitment and lined up with several hundred people outside the La Habra market. I later wrote about my highly entertaining experience. Most of the consumers who were stocking up on up to three bags of chiles allowed per person were Latinos and/or homesick New Mexicans. And because there is no limit to the number of people in your family showing up for his or her allotment, there were a lot of friends and family members in line together, many of whom spent their time exchanging Hatch chile recipes.

Since I am part of a three-person nuclear unit, I still have chiles left over from last year, despite the many batches of Chile Verde I produced during the previous twelve months. I’ve almost depleted my supply of frozen Hatch chiles, but I still have a lot of the thin, almost translucent chiles I dehydrated, which, when dried, turned into spectacular edible art.

Some of these chiles I pulverized into a coarse powder, but not without a cost. I nearly gassed out the entire family last August, before realizing I needed to run an extension cord from the house and bring the food processor outside to complete the process. I made the same mistake yesterday morning when I attempted to reduce the green chile flakes to a finer powder, in order to use them in a spicy brownie recipe that a friend of mine gave to me last week. My dogs were still sneezing and lurching around the back yard when I finished blending the dried chiles in my coffee grinder outside.

By afternoon, the chocolate chipped-studded brownies joined the ranks of successful recipes using Hatch chiles. In order to restrain myself from wolfing down the entire batch before my husband and son could put one foot through the front door tonight, I ran across the street with half of the barely-cooled brownies on a paper plate, to give to a neighbor with a similar tooth for spicy food. Protecting the brownies from myself — not altruism — was the primary drive behind this gift.

August 21th
1800 West Whittier Boulevard
La Habra, CA 90631
(562) 697-6442

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Responses

  1. Thank you so much for posting this site. Now I know for next chile season, where to go for my green chile’s. Would you happen to know if there are any markets in the southern california area where I can buy some new mexico green chiles?

    • Pat, the fresh ones are seasonal, the season ending in late August and September. I know that some markets — primarily Latino– sell roasted chiles that have been frozen. if you Google “frozen Hatch chiles Los Angeles,” you’ll probably come up with some hits.

      You might even be able to order them from New Mexico.


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