Hatch Apple Pie

It's chile time again, and the awesome sight of giant drums filled with Hatch peppers (and yes, we shall all call them Hatch, regardless of their true provenance), spinning slowly before the flames, returns to grocery store parking lots across the city. Along with all those deliciously charred capsicums comes a veritable cornucopia of chile-laden dishes. Everything from the ubiquitous Hatch Chile-Cheeseburger to less well worn items like Hatchzpacho (something I'm working on, currently) are popping up on shelves and menus everywhere.

As always, Central Market is delving deep into the pepper patch, and putting Hatch chiles in everything. When I was there last week, I was looking for cinnamon rolls to enjoy for breakfast the following morning, and accidentally bumped into a display of Hatch Apple Pies. The sparkle of the sugar topping caught my eye, and the promise of a sweet-hot slice of heaven caught my imagination.

Hatch chiles pack plenty of bright green, grassy flavor, and I was sure they would make a wonderful pair with tart-sweet apple pie. The slight depth given by roasting offers another dimension, and I love combining heat and sweet. I wasn't disappointed.

I've been thoroughly spoiled by my mom's pies (the woman works wonders with pastry), but I must admit that this was a pretty good specimen. The crust hued hewed closer to tender than to flaky, but presented a nicely buttery and nutty flavor. The filling was just barely sweet, avoiding the saccharine filling that plagues so many mass-market pies, with apple chunks whose texture had stood up admirably to their time in the oven.

There were also noticeable flecks of chile; anything less would have been a disappointment. Hatch was, after all, the pie's Christian name. Those flecks brought a respectable level of heat, creating some grins and more than a few wide eyes around the table.

We'd brought the pie to enjoy after dinner with my grandparents. My grandfather loves spicy food, so I thought he'd appreciate it. My grandmother, who loves sweets in all forms, dug in before we had a chance to thoroughly warn her. First, she nodded in approval; then she gasped in surprise; finally, she gaped as we happily wolfed down our spicy slices.

A similar scene repeated itself about half an hour later. My youngest daughter, who had skipped out halfway through dinner in order to play, had returned to the table and snuck an un-knowing bite. The first I knew of it was when she ran up to me, wild-eyed, half chewed pie apparently burning a hole through her outstretched tongue. I got her a napkin and a glass of milk, and cut myself another slice.

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