Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Of Hatch New Mexico, Chiles, and Cheese

image from http://www.centralmarket.com/hatch

You know you're a local New Mexican when the waiter can ask you "Red or green?" after your breakfast order and you know exactly what he's talking about. 

He's talking about chiles. 

Do you want red chile or green chile?
Yes, chile sauce can be served at breakfast. Chiles can be served with anything. On anything. All the chain fast food restaurants have chiles on their menu, including Pizza Hut. Yes, there are chiles on the pizza. 

There are even chiles in the Chinese food in New Mexico.


You can't enter New Mexico without being introduced to the chile - especially the green chile. New Mexican green chiles, also known as Hatch green chiles - Hatch, New Mexico being where the main (some say best) farms are located, are unique. 

They aren't a subset of another type of chile. They are their own breed, developed by Fabian Garcia and officially released in 1917 ("Improved Variety No. 9"). Today you can purchase several varieties of Hatch chiles, such as Big Jim (noted favorite, medium hot, big and meaty) and Sandia (hot and flavorful).

Fabian Garcia, first director of New Mexico A&M's Agricultural Experiment Station, also worked on onions, cotton, and pecans - all of which grow around Hatch to this day. But none of them are as famous as his chile. 

In case you're wondering, red chiles are the same chiles as green chiles, they've just been left to ripen more before they're picked.

Roasting the chile crop is a yearly tradition in New Mexico. You can watch at restaurants, farmers' markets, or temporary roadside stands.

You can also roast your own chiles at home.

This is where the hoarding begins, because if you're a chile fan, you've got to buy and preserve enough chiles to last you until the next harvest.

What can you do with your chiles, now that you have them? Well, chile rellenos are popular.

Find this Hatch chile rellenos recipe HERE
But I have found that many people like the mix of chiles and cheese. There's something especially tempting about the taste of melted cheese and hot peppers.

The Dog House Drive In, located in Albuquerque, is famous for its chile cheese dogs.

And practically everywhere has a green chile cheeseburger (including all of the fast food chains, such as McDonalds).

There is even a Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, if as part of your tourist journey you would like to cheerfully munch your way across New Mexico state.

Several burger joints claim to be the inventor of this iconic sandwich. One of these is The Owl Cafe, which was the inspiration for the bar where my characters meet in my 1NS story DESERT TRYST.

So of course, green chile cheeseburgers have a cameo in DESERT TRYST. How could they not?

It's not New Mexico if there aren't chiles.

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