Chow Town

It’s Hatch Pepper season

Updated: 2013-08-11T18:26:18Z

By JASPER J. MIRABILE JR.

It’s August. It’s hot. Fresh produce is bountiful and we’re not just talking local.

It’s Hatch Pepper season my friends and I am celebrating with many new recipes this year.

Now to be honest with you, I did not grow up eating Hatch Peppers but since working with Hen House Markets the past seven years I have discovered many ways to enjoy the Hatch.

Best of all, I get a kick out of the roaster in the parking lot during the Hatch Pepper Festivals in August at Hen House Markets.

So, what makes this pepper so unique, tasteful and sought after every summer?

Hatch peppers are a variety of peppers grown in a Hatch Valley, an area stretching north and south along the Rio Grande from Arrey, N.M., in the north to south of Hatch, N.M. The soil and growing conditions in the Hatch Valley contribute greatly to the consistent flavor of the pepper.

Hatch, N.M., was born from an extension of the Santa Fe Railroad Company in 1880. It started as an Adobe post office and a railroad flag station.

Hatch was named after Gen. Edward Hatch, commander of the Southwest Military. The town was destroyed in 1921 from a flood but was immediately rebuilt and has continued to prosper as an agricultural community.

Hot days and cool nights give this Hatch chili a flavor of it’s own whether you stuff, sauté, fire roast or fry this versatile variety will give any dish you prepare that signature punch.

When purchasing a fresh Hatch Pepper, look for a bright green color, the brighter the better. Check the shape and make sure it’s symmetrical.

Pick one up, they should be nice and smooth and when you give it a little squeeze, it should be firm.

It should also feel a bit heavy for it’s size, probably because of all the flavor waiting to be released inside.

There are many ways to prepare to Hatch Pepper, under a broiler, on a rangetop, a cast-iron griddle or right on the grill. Wait for the chilies to blister and become black all over.

I like to then put them in a bag of some type and retain a lot of steam. I put on a pair gloves and remove the skins by running them under cool water.

If you don’t use the pepper right away, remove the membranes and the seeds and put them in an airtight freezer bag.

But really, who doesn’t want to eat a Hatch Pepper or cook with it the same day it is purchased?

I talked to some of the experts over at Hen House Markets and they told me this year looks to be no different than in the past, Hatch Peppers are arriving every day and peppers are plentiful and flavorful, actually some of the best they have seen in years. They did say the hotter peppers will be coming out in a couple of weeks so now’s the time if you like the mild ones.

Hatch peppers only come around once a year, so this chef encourages you to grab these chilies before they’re gone. No other chile is prized more than this variety. Chefs say that the intense sunlight and cool nights in the valley result in a uniquely flavored chile. I have to agree.

So go out today and grab yourself some Hatch Peppers and make yourself some Chile con Queso, Chile Rellano or Chile Verde and don’t stop there, try roasting and using them in salads, soups, stews, dips, and sandwiches.

Perhaps an easy Quesadilla?

Here is a recipe that I created for Hen House Markets. I hope you become a Hatch Head after just one taste. Enjoy!

Hatch Chili Pepper & Shrimp Quesadillas

Makes 4 quesadillas

For the shrimp quesadillas:

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces of shrimp

4 Hatch Peppers (roasted, seeded and diced)

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 lime

8 tortillas

1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 avocado, sliced

For the Hatch Pepper Sauce:

1 avocado, finely chopped

3 or 4 Hatch Peppers

1 cup sour cream

Tabasco Sauce, to taste

Salt, to taste

To prepare the shrimp quesadillas: Sauté shrimp in olive oil, Add hatch peppers and season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Place tortilla in frying pan on medium heat. Sprinkle the tortilla with the grated cheese. Add the cooked shrimp on top of the cheese. Place the other tortilla on top. Toast on both sides, flipping the quesadilla over when the bottom tortilla is toasted and the cheese has begun to melt.

Place on serving dish. Cut like a pie into six pieces. Serve with sliced avocado and Hatch Pepper Sauce.

For the Hatch Pepper Sauce: Place avocado and hatch peppers in a bowl and puree. Fold in sour cream and add Tabasco Sauce. Salt to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.

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