Have you ever heard of Hatch chiles?
Apparently, there are about two counties in New Mexico that have soil perfect for growing the best, most flavorful chiles in the world. They come into season in late August, early September, and when they are in season, the cognoscenti buy them in bulk. One of my former co-workers used to live in Taos, New Mexico, and told me that during the season, street vendors actually set up huge roasters and roast them right on the street.
So when I had the chance to buy 25 pounds of Hatch chiles through Bountiful Baskets co-op, I (or, rather, my boyfriend, who also lived in Taos) jumped at the chance. After splitting the box with two friends, I found myself with just under eight pounds of chiles.
I mentioned before that I grew up in Western New York, but I did not mention that my family is totally spice-averse. We never bought anything other than mild Pace salsa; I didn’t eat a chicken wing with actual hot wing sauce on it until I was well into college. My first taste of Frank’s Red Hot, that beloved condiment of all Buffalonians, didn’t occur until I was living in Ireland with another Buffalonian.
I made a few adjustments, of course. I didn’t buy pork skins, I couldn’t find sausage without sugar, and I did not have arrowroot powder or any other thickener. And I forgot cilantro. So, I replaced the sausage with thoroughly-seasoned ground pork, replaced the pork skins with almond meal, and I left out the cilantro. No biggie — it was still awesome, though I did miss the extra flavor the cilantro would have given it.
If you hate spice, don’t make this recipe. If you want to tone down the spice a little, don’t use as much salsa verde, or you can try using a mild red salsa variety. This is a dish that will clear your sinuses, leave your lips burning and have you running for the ice cream.
This recipe makes about nine servings, assuming a hungry 200-pound firefighter ate a serving and a half and that I ate a normal-person serving. It’s an awesome way to use up two pounds of chiles, and it’s just as good the next day.
Hatch Chile Casserole
Adapted from Fed and Fit
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 package organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about six thighs)
4 cups room-temp water
1 pound ground pork
2 pounds roasted, seeded, peeled Hatch chile peppers
1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa
1 can full-fat coconut milk
4 Tbsp lime juice (2 limes worth)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 cup almonds, chopped into meal
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Season one side of the thighs with salt and pepper. Lay them seasoned-side down in the hot pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on one side. Season the up-facing side with salt and pepper. Flip them over after the time is done, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then cover with 4 cups of water. Cover the pan and simmer on low for 18-20 minutes. When finished, move drained chicken to a bowl and roughly shred with two forks.
Brown the pork in a large frying pan, cutting into large bite-sized pieces and seasoning liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside when finished.
Chop the Hatch chiles into one-inch pieces and place into a large mixing bowl. Add the shredded chicken and sausage to the bowl and stir together. Pour the entire filling into a large casserole dish (13×9) and set aside. Try not to, as I did, over-fill the pan.
Combine the salsa, coconut milk, salt, lime juice, cumin, and chili powder in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. Pour the gravy over the filling, and again, try not to get this all over the counter.
Sprinkle with the almonds (which should have been chopped in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs). Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 minutes. If desired, stick under the broiler for 2 mins to brown the almonds.