Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting for the Chile Roaster

This morning when I glanced at the grocery store ads, I saw that my local store had 30 pound bags of Hatch green chiles (yes, in New Mexico, hot peppers are spelled the Spanish way, chile rather than chili) for $14.88 including roasting. Naturally, I reorganized my day's priorities to include getting my year's supply of Hatch chiles. Five minutes to buy them, about an hour or an hour and a half waiting to have them roasted in the grocery store parking lot and then some time at home packing them into freezer bags. 

It actually only takes a few minutes to roast them in the rotating steel grated barrel over a line of propane flames, but there were half-a-dozen people in front of me , and some had two or three bags. But time spent in line waiting for the chile roaster is never time wasted.  Quite often the person in front of me or behind me is Hispano, with roots here that go back to before the U.S. acquired New Mexico in 1850 (more or less--the Gadsden Purchase was in 1853), or even back to the earliest Spanish settlement of the area, before 1600. And that's assuming none of their ancestors were Indians who had settled here a long, long time ago. New Mexico has a lot of prehistory.  So while waiting in Hatch chile-scented air, I've learned that while some people take their chiles home and peel the charred skin off before canning or freezing, some don't. I belong to the latter group. The first year, I tried to peel them and while some of the skin would slip off nicely, some of it . . . wouldn't. It took a long time. The next I stopped worrying about it. Some skin comes off as you handle them, and what remains adds to the flavor, in my opinion. 

Sometimes we've talked about bizcochitos, the state cookie. Say what you will about the benefits of a low-fat diet, bizcochitos need lard. Not to use lard in them would be like trying to make pastrami out of tofu. Anise is often considered vital, too, and brandy (or brandy flavoring). Mine use both (I found the recipe in a recipe file at an estate sale; its late owner appeared to be a very good cook).  

Once I talked to someone about making tamales for Christmas Eve. That was a little discouraging. I'd found bags of pre-mixed masa dough at a supermarket and gleefully made a filling from a reasonably authentic recipe. When I mentioned the supermarket masa dough, she closed her eyes and turned pale. She made her dough from scratch.  Embarrassing.