photo of chiles by Sarah Serendipity
A reader of The Lost Recipe for Happiness wrote to me and said, “Those of us without knowledge of the southwest US and its foods might have liked a little more instruction on how to roast chiles.” A good point.
It’s a cloudy day here in Colorado, a very good kind of day for a green chile stew to burn off the viruses hanging around the house and our bodies. (Click here for Michelle’s Green Chile Stew recipe, the best, simplest recipe I know for this hearty, wholesome dish.)
To roast chiles is very simple. Look for mild green chile peppers, about three or four inches long. They might be called Anaheim or Pueblo or Hatch or mild green chile peppers. Most grocery stores seem to carry them year-round these days. I buy them in bushels from the farmers market or the roadside stands that bloom in August and September around here. Often, they will do the roasting for you in giant revolving roasters, and you can then bring them home and divide them into smaller batches for freezing. This would be for the serious chile consumer, however, not the casual user.
For the more casual user, buy mild green chiles, choosing peppers that are firm to the touch, much as you would choose sweet peppers. The smell will often hint at the heat–try to smell a few to see if you can tell what a hotter pepper might smell like, just for fun. For an average stew, bring home 10 or 12 chiles (plus a few jalapenos or serranos (careful–super hot!) to roast as well. You might also want some thin latex gloves, thin enough you can still work with the chiles.
At home, wash the peppers and put them on a cookie sheet under the broiler for a few minutes to blacken the tough outer skin of the pepper. Keep an eye on them. It doesn’t take long! (One of the most fun parts is watching the chiles “breathe” in the oven.) When one side is seared, turn them over and sear the other side. Remove from the oven.
When they are cool enough to handle, strip off the blackened skin and strip out the seeds from the middle of the pepper. This is best done by using the stem as a little handle for each pepper, and you’ll quickly get a feeling for the rhythm. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE OR EYES WHILE DOING THIS! For a small batch of chiles, you will probably not need the gloves, but if you do a big batch, you absolutely need the protection, because your skin can blister. Handle the jalapenos and serranos with particular care. They can be roasted just like bigger chiles, but they are smaller, and you need just a little.
When you’ve stripped off the skins and seeds, chop off the stems and the chiles are ready to be chopped and used in whatever recipe you like.
Anyone else up for green chile this afternoon? I think I might even make tortillas from scratch. mmmmm…
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5 thoughts on “Roasting chiles”
The food and chiles in general are some of the things I miss most living in the East. When you grow up out west you don’t realize that common things like massive black bbq barrels in a shopping center parking lot with loads of juicy tri-tip, chile verde or avocados and lime on every table are not a part of the American experience, they are limited to those lucky enough to live in the West. If you didn’t grow up with it you don’t realize how heavenly fresh, real tortillas are. All you know is the stiff, floury tasting, pasty things they sell in the grocery stores. And Mexican food is not all heavy and covered in pounds of mild red sauce and smothered in cheese! The Lost Recipe made me homesick for the food of my youth.
Barbara, have you ever seen Tortilla Soup? I love, love, love Hector Elizondo in anything, but that movie was the first for me that made food a main character. It was on cable TV last night and I even sat through the commercials to gobble it up.
(Oh, and if I am impatient or in a hurry I put my roasted peppers in a paper bag to make the “peeling” process even easier.)
LOVE roasted chilis.
We have a gas stove and just roast them over the open flame (using tongs, of course!) Or if we’re grilling burgers or chicken, we’ll just throw a few Anaheims on with the meat, then peel and slice them just before eating. Yum!
What a great idea, Erin!
Scarlet, yes, these are the foods of our world, definitely.
Thanks for posting the green chile recipe. It was the perfect dish for a cold, snowy, hailing and whatever else the weather gods could throw our way in the Pacific Northwest today. Not to mention instant heat for my returning backpackers. Everyone loved it. I promise, though, to next time roast the chiles myself. I did cheat and use the canned kind.
Monica, I often cheat and use canned if there are no more roasted chiles. Still tastes delicious, doesn’t it?