I try to eat whatever is in season, which really isn't a problem in bountiful Los Angeles with our access to great fresh fruits and vegetables. Peach season was one of my favorites, but as I bid adieu to my fuzzy friend, I'm looking for my next culprit. Enter the hatch chile.
Hatch chiles are a curious lot given that they're the only chiles that come in different temperatures ranging from mild to eye watering. The tricky thing is that they're all the same color (green), so ideally your grocery store has them labeled, and if not, be sure to ask, or get ready to play heat roulette.
Even more curious is that these chiles have a very specific season that runs just a few weeks, usually straddling the months of August and September. These chiles get their name from their original growing area in Hatch, New Mexico. By day they have intense sunlight, and at night it turns cool, resulting in a pepper with a unique and meaty flavor. Luckily Melissa's Produce does the driving for us and makes them easily available around town, and they even supplied me with a few to sample, along with their new cookbook that will leave you wondering, why you've ever cooked without these.
You may have recently seen your local grocery store with big grills out front and a strong fragrance in the air as they roast some of these fine delicacies. You do need to roast and peel the chiles before using them, which is easy to do at home, but even easier, is picking them up already roasted in store when in season.
If you're doing your own home roasting, you can hold them over a gas flame, put them on the grill, or place them in the oven. I found it took about 10 minutes to give them a nice all over char.
Once charred, put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow the chiles to steam and the skins to soften for removal. After they've cooled, use your fingers to remove the skin and chop the stem off, slice open and discard the seeds.
They're now ready to go, or you can slip them in the freezer to use at a later date.
I decided to make an easy, fresh tomato, caper salsa with the chiles to spice up some fresh caught Snapper. Spice it up it did, and made my house smell smoky and nice.
I only ended up using about half of one of the chiles since I had the hottest one, but if you get a milder chile, you may want to double it. I'm not someone who tends to like steam coming out my ears when I eat, but I know some of my friends do, so adjust according to your own taste.
Snapper with Hatch Chile Salsa
- 1 pound of snapper or other white fish
- 1/2 Hatch Chile - roasted, skinned and seeded (see above for details)
- 6 ounces of cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 2 tablespoons of capers
- Juice of half of lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Finely chop chile, and add tomatoes and capers. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat a pan over medium heat and coat with non-stick spray.
- Season fish with salt and pepper on both sides and add to pan when hot.
- Cook until fish is opaque, approximately 3-5 minutes per side.
- When fish is nearly cooked, add salsa to the pan until warm, about 2-3 minutes.
- Squeeze the juice of the lemon on top and serve.