Depending on where you live, you might be familiar with the late summer sight of hatch chile roasting. A grocery store or restaurant sets up a chile roaster next to the entrance, which looks like an industrial casino bingo number dispenser. The charred peppers can be purchased inside, and used for… well, something (more on that in a minute). It’s one of those last seasonal sights to behold, like peaches at the farmer’s market and junker cars on the road indicative that the college students have returned.
Before moving to the Southwest, I didn’t pay much attention to the sideshow chiles. The roasty-toasty thing seemed fussy, and I wasn’t sure what to do with their charred remains anyway. I also thought the name “hatch” referred to their cooking method, like, “down the hatch!” I did not care to investigate further.
Our first dinner here, a New Mexican feast at Poco and Mom’s, made mascot use of hatch chiles. They were in the enchilada sauce, the salsa, stuffed as a relleno, praised on a bumper sticker. Apparently the “hatch” doesn’t refer to the cooking method but the location: Hatch Valley along the Rio Grande in New Mexico (hence their prevalence in New Mexican-style cuisine). Hatch chiles are distantly related to Anaheim peppers, but they tend to be spicier. Their season is short, stretching through August and September, though aficionados roast as many as they can get their hands on and freeze them for use throughout the year.
Distribution outside of the Southwest can be sketchy, but through my unscientific survey of living in Seattle and Portland, I say your chances are good at finding them at upper-crust grocers. Think New Seasons, Metropolitan Market and QFC. Although you can pay a premium to get the fancy store-roasted chiles, they roast up just as easily under the broiler at home. Freeze in small Ziplocs, as a couple of chiles go a long way.
What to do with these desert valley gems? Well I could tell you to dice them up for chili, enchiladas, baked beans, fajitas and homemade salsa. Maybe toss them in omelets or homemade macaroni and cheese.
I will not go soft on you, Spectrum Seasonal. We’re honoring the hatch with peach and pepper cornmeal pancakes. A little sweet, a little spicy, the perfect brunch item for those wanting to start their morning without a sugar injection. They pair up with another current season favorite, the delectable, juicy peach. Definitely pair a stack of these Arizona sunrise yellow pancakes with your snobbiest high-brow, Ina Garten-approved GOOD maple syrup and a ridiculous amount of bacon. Our Whole Foods has an in-house smoking team that makes ancho chile bacon, but if you can’t get that, any thick-cut style would be delicious.
Peach and Pepper Cornmeal Pancakes
(The pancake base of this recipe is from The Pioneer Woman, although I’ve adjusted quantities to make them turn out better)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill because this is all you should ever use)
1/3 cup Hatch roasted chiles, diced (should yield from 2 peppers)
1 peach, peeled and diced
½ tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp baking powder
2 cups milk
3 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp butter, melted
Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Separately whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just to combine. Fold in the peaches and peppers, along with the melted butter. The batter should be thicker than typical pancake batter. If it looks thin, add a couple extra tablespoons of flour.
Prepare a griddle to medium-high heat and slick with butter or cooking spray. Ladle out the batter in ½ cup increments, leaving 3 inches of space between cakes. Flip when the pancake sides begin bubbling, about 3 minutes. Keep finished pancakes warm in a low oven (200 degrees or Warm setting) until the rest of the batch cooks through.
Note: This recipe makes a crap-ton of pancakes. If you don’t have hungry guests over, feel free to half for two or three generous portions.