How To: Roast Green Chiles

Even if the temperature is 104˚ next weekend, I'll be outside, next to a red-hot grill, roasting green chiles. That's what chile addicts have to do this time of year. I'm just thankful that Central Market is trucking them in for their Hatch Chile Festival, saving me a thousand-mile trek to Albuquerque.

It's the aroma that makes me want to roast them myself. Those steel-mesh drum roasters are everywhere in New Mexico during late summer, so the fragrance is omnipresent. Here, I must relish my only chance.

Roasting is easy. I put the raw chiles over a high flame, close the lid, and let them burn a little. The point is to get spots of black char on the skin, as the moisture inside the flesh turns to steam and begins to puff up the chiles. I turn the chiles so they roast on both sides. The grill has hot spots, so I move the chiles around.

The results may look overdone on the outside, but as long as the charred skins are intact, the chiles are good on the inside. The uncharred parts will turn from a vibrant green to a less attractive yellowish-green. Just before the skins tear, or just after, is the time to remove the chiles and toss them into a plastic bag or a covered container.

Surprisingly, the hot chiles will not melt a plastic bag. I use a five-gallon plastic paint bucket from Lowe's, because I have to fill half a freezer.

As the chiles cool, the internal steam loosens the skins. After I rip off the stem ends, the skins slide off the slimy chiles. Then I whack the chiles on the side of the sink to get most of the seeds out of the inside.

The important precaution for cleaning green chiles, if one does more than a few pounds, is to wear plastic or latex gloves. After cleaning a bushel one year without them, I woke up with numb hands. I buy surgical gloves at American Medical Equipment. Also, I now avoid rubbing my eyes while cleaning chiles.

After cleaning the chiles, I roughly chop them, put slightly more than a cup of them into each quart-size plastic freezer bag, then wrap each bag in foil to prevent freezer funk. A processed chile weighs about an ounce, so eight chopped chiles make a cup.

How Not to Roast Chiles

The mechanical drum roasters do an adequate job of roasting chiles and are great timesavers. However, one year we had a rookie roaster, who guessed the way to remove the skins was to incinerate them. Instead of the skins sliding off, we had to wash off thousands of burnt flakes that were stuck to the dried flesh. A job that normally takes two hours stretched into six, and the extra beer required didn't improve the task.

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