If your windows are rolled down, you can smell the spicy aroma blocks away as you wait at a stop light in your car. Driving closer, you can actually hear the roar of the propane fueled fire as the flames nip at the lusciously curved, green and red fruit. A peppery scent permeates the air as you pull your vehicle into the parking lot and step out on the black tarred pavement. Your mouth has already started to water at the thought of eating freshly roasted chiles. Hot off the grill and wrapped in a tortilla with butter and a little sprinkle of S & P, there is nothing better!
It’s August and every parking lot in New Mexico has a corner fenced off and reserved for an old, recycled 50 gallon metal drum cut in half and welded back together with additional hinges, vents, cranks, lids, and handles, standing next to stacks and stacks of large burlap bags stuffed with chiles – Hatch Chiles. The absolutely best in the world! For the next two months, vendors from the surrounding area work the chile roasters as locals flock to their favorite chile stand, waiting in line to buy 50 to 100 pound bags of roasted chiles – hoping to get enough for a year’s supply…. maybe. In the mean time, family members are gathered back at home waiting in the kitchen for the return of the chiles, prepared to start the peeling and packaging process, usually, an all day family event. In the Southwest, it is chile harvest time – the kickoff to Fall and football.
As Malcolm and I pull into the massive parking lot adjacent to our local grocery, Dolce and Amore sense the excitement. They know this trip to the store is much different from the standard run to get more milk. Their scent-sensitive snouts are poking out the half rolled-down car window, their noses wrinkling, sniffing at the fiery, piquant smells. As we exit the car, I’m always reminded of the scene in the movie, Silverado, when the main characters walk into the local watering hole, the swinging saloon doors behind them, taking a deep and audible breath at the entrance, ahhhhhh! Breathing in the air of cigar smoke, alcohol and sweat, the tension leaves and the anticipation begins. You know at that moment, they are at home. That scene right there is the epitome of chile harvest – a deep breath, taking in all the fiery freshness of roasted green chiles, the anticipation of their spicy flavor, you’re at home.
Dolce and Amore get left in the car as we walk across the striped spaces to buy our chiles, the biggest decision we have to make is, do we buy one or two bags of peppers? A mental checklist runs through my mind, do we have enough gloves at home to handle the peppers? Did I buy plenty of Ziplock bags for the freezer? Green or Red? or Christmas? Do we have any Cerveza in the garage frig? All important when peeling peppers.
Personally, I like green chiles for breakfast burritos and red for enchiladas. Malcolm likes only green – period! We get a bag of both. Christmas! The girls get neither!
WARNING: Do not ever let your dogs eat chile peppers!
CHILE CHEESE BAKE
For the tenderfoots, substitute green onions for the chiles!
- 8 oz. roasted green chiles, diced
- 1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- 1 lb. Cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 egg whites
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1 tbsp. flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 lb. bacon, cooked, diced
Preheat oven to 325 F. butter a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish. combine green chiles and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Place on the bottom of the baking dish.
Add flour and evaporated milk to the egg yolks. Set aside. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold in egg whites to the flour mixture. Spread mixture over the cheese in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and arrange the bacon pieces and tomato sliced on the top of the cheese mixture. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. Serve warm.