August 18, 2013

Hatch Chile Chicken Tortilla Soup

Hatch Chile Chicken Tortilla Soup
Hatch Chile Chicken Tortilla Soup

What’s the Big Deal about Hatch Chiles?

Hatch chiles are special for a number of reasons. First of all they make their appearance each year only in the months of August and September. Secondly, they come from a very specific geographic region of the United States. They are grown only in the valley along the Rio Grande River near the small town of Hatch, New Mexico. Thirdly, Hatch chiles vary in intensity. The same variety of chile can be mild, medium, hot or extra hot. The fact is that the chile varieties grown in Hatch, New Mexico just don’t taste the same as those grown anywhere else. Hatch chiles are unique. Maybe it’s the soil. Maybe it’s the intense sunlight and the cool nights of the New Mexico valley that produce such a uniquely flavored chile. But, whatever it is, Hatch chiles are a treasured treat and they are abundant this time of the year.

Every year there is a Hatch Chile Festival in Hatch, New Mexico celebrating this famous chile. For years you could only get the fresh chiles in New Mexico itself. But, much like the Vidalia onions of Vidalia, Georgia, Hatch chiles are now available pretty much everywhere. The widespread availability is due to large groceries like Whole Foods that ship Hatch chiles all across the country, but there are also smaller providers of Hatch chiles, too, like The Hatch Chile Store in Hatch, New Mexico.

All around Hatch, New Mexico, you will find chile roaster this time of the year, sending folks home with fresh roasted chiles. These roasters are found in grocery store parking lots, farmers markets, and on the side of the road. Hatch chiles need to be roasted before they are used because the outer skin is tough. Once they are roasted, it is super-easy to peel off the outer skin.

For most recipes, it’s best to remove the seeds and the membranes of the chile. However, I always reserve some of the seeds… just in case. You never know when you will need to add extra heat. 😉

Roasting Chiles on the Baking Steel

How to Roast Hatch Chiles

If you don’t buy your Hatch chiles already roasted, don’t worry. It’s a simple process that you can do in your own kitchen.

I prefer to use my Baking Steel to roast peppers in the oven. Essentially, the Baking Steel allows you to roast both sides at the same time under the broiler. And you do want to roast Hatch chiles before using them in any recipe. Roasting makes the process of removing the coarse skin from the meat of the pepper much easier to do.

To roast Hatch chiles in the oven, you first want to rinse them and then dry them thoroughly with a clean towel. If you are using a Baking Steel, place the steel in the oven on the highest or second-to-highest rack and pre-heat it on Bake at your oven’s highest temperature for at least 45 minutes. Once the Baking Steel is fully heated, place the chiles on the steel and switch the oven from Bake to Broil. Keep a close eye on the chiles. You do want them to blister, but you do not want to burn them. After a couple of minutes, flip the chiles if necessary. Once the chiles are roasted, remove them from the oven and place them in large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the chiles to cool in the bowl. The cool-down time helps the skins to further separate from the meat of the chiles, making it easier to peel them.

Peel the chiles and remove the seeds after they have cooled. Then you are ready to cook up some delicious dishes with roasted Hatch chiles!

Chicken Tortilla Soup… Kicked Up a Notch

My family loves Chicken Tortilla Soup. As a matter of fact, I posted my usual recipe for it last September. But the other day, while I was shopping at Whole Foods, I noticed a large display of Hatch chiles with a sign that read, “Hatch Chiles: 3 lbs for $1.00.” I was intrigued. 3 pounds of Hatch chiles for $1.00? “What’s wrong with them? Are they rotting?” I thought. I examined them and they looked fine. Apparently, Whole Foods just had an abundance of Hatch chiles and needed to get rid of them. And I was happy to help out with that. So, as I drove home with my 3 lbs of chiles, I dreamed of what dishes I could make for the week that would incorporate Hatch chiles. Chicken Tortilla Soup was the first thing I thought of. I also thought of making a Cream of Hatch Chile Soup with Roasted Corn, Tomatoes and Sausage. I did, in fact, make that the other day too. But I’ll save that recipe for tomorrow.

Join Jeff Young, The Catholic Foodie, Chef Matt Murphy and Fr. Kyle Sanders on a Food Meets Faith Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Registration for my next pilgrimage to the Holy Land is now open! The pilgrimage will be from February 26 to March 8, 2015. Chef Matt Murphy, owner and operator of The Irish House in New Orleans and winner of Food Network’s Chopped in 2012 will accompany me, and Fr. Kyle Sanders, a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, will travel as the Spiritual Director.

I want to invite you to grow in faith together with me around the table of the Eucharist and around the dinner table in the Holy Land.

Register before August 1, 2014 and you will receive a free autographed copy of my soon-to-be-released cookbook: Around the Table with The Catholic Foodie: Middle Eastern Cuisine, published by Liguori Publications.

See full itinerary HERE. You can also download it.