So I’ve been in Santa Fe for a couple weeks. According to the American Lung Association, this area has some of the cleanest air in the country. It’s right up there with Duluth, and the difference in palpable. First, smells seem to carry much further around here. I smell piñon and ponderosa pines, I smell desert sage and honeysuckle and russian olives. And this time of year, there’s the smell of roasting Hatch green chiles all around town.
Right now they are overflowing at every supermarket anywhere near Hatch, New Mexico. They are sold out of trucks by the side of the road and at the farmers markets. They are usually sold fresh and roasted on the spot with huge gas-fired roasters. The grocery stores have roasters out front, and customers line up with 30 or 40 pound burlap sacks full of chiles in their carts. I’m still trying to figure out what people do with all those chiles when they get home, but apparently they freeze really well.
Hatch chiles in the roaster (photo by mrccos)
Karl and I got a huge ziplock bag of roasted Hatch chiles and ate them with everything. They’re about as versatile as tomatoes, and so far I have enjoyed them most in salad or paired with one other ingredient. Almost any ingredient.
Roasted Hatch chile with a boiled egg. Great combo. There are many other varieties around here, too: Big Jim, Red “Bullshorn”, Padrón, Chimayó, Shishito, but Hatch seems to be the most famous.
“Red or green?” is an FAQ around town. This is what red looks like, on enchiladas with nixtamal, beans, rice, and lots of queso, at Cafe Castro:
This is green, on Karl’s tacos:
And there is a third option: christmas. Here it is at Harry’s Roadhouse, on blue corn enchiladas:
Sopapillas at Cafe Castro. Deep fried puffy dough pockets, served with honey on the side. These are not dessert, they’re served with the meal (instead of chips and salsa). I think it plays an important role, because everything starts to kind of blend together on the plate after a while.
At The Shed, we got big portions of really excellent red chile pork enchiladas, which are served with the standard sides and, surprisingly, garlic bread on the side (again, instead of chips & salsa). It provides the textural contrast that the chips and salsa usually bring, but with a flavor that doesn’t feel like more of what’s already on your plate.
This is the meal where I finally understood what red chile sauce really is. It’s dark red and brooding and subterranean and more umami than spicy. It has more in common with mole than with salsa. It’s fantastic.