It’s Hatch Chile season in the South West US at the moment and there is a glut of really cheap chilis piling up in the supermarkets. At less than $1 per pound you can get about 8 large chilis, so I have been taking advantage of the harvest and most dishes have Hatch Chiles in them. Though you can use Hatch chiles raw in salsas or in any dish requiring a chili pepper, it is best to pre-roast them first, as this not only removes the skin, but it sweetens the flesh and brings out the flavour. At most supermarkets selling Hatch Chiles, you’ll probably find pre-roasted ones, or even someone roasting them on-site. If you are in a rush, then certainly buy these, but you pay a lot more per pound.
To roast Hatch Chiles, or any type of pepper or chile for that mater, it is best to use the broiler (grill) or outside grill (barbecue). You’ll find lots of cookbooks and websites suggesting that you can just hold the pepper in a pair of tongs over a gas burner, but all that does is char the skin, leaving the flesh of the pepper still raw. What you want is to completely scorch the skin, so that the flesh underneath is slightly cooked and starts to sweeten and release the peppery aromas.
How to roast peppers and chilis
- First clean the peppers and remove the stems, seeds and ribs. You can leave the peppers whole and remove the seeds after, but it is a messier job.
- Cut the peppers in half and place them skin side up on a baking sheet or grid. Place the peppers under a high grill (broiler) ~260C (500F) for about 10 mins. Alternatively place the peppers skin side down on a hot barbecue. The skin should start to blister and blacken.
- Once the skin has become black all over, remove from the heat and quickly place them into a plastic bag and seal. Leave the peppers from about 20 mins to steam inside the plastic bag.
- Remove the peppers from the bag and you should be able to easily remove the blackened skin with your fingers. Alternatively you can place the pepper on a cutting board, hold one end and gently scrape the skin off using a knife.
If you are in a rush, you could steam the peppers in a microwave, to help remove the skins, but I don’t think this sweetens the pepper flesh as much as roasting under high heat does.