Central Market’s Hatch Chile Festival

The Hatch Pepper is as versatile as it is unique, and can be found in abundance for the next two weeks at Central Market. (Photo courtesy of Central Market)

The Hatch Pepper is as versatile as it is unique, and can be found in abundance for the next two weeks at Central Market. (Photo courtesy of Central Market)

The uniqueness of the Hatch Chile is incomparable, as are its culinary possibilities – from being mixed into brownies to burgers, these peppers grown and harvested in Hatch, New Mexico possess characteristics that lend them to roasting, baking, stuffing and all points in between.

For the 17th year in a row, Central Market is celebrating this popular peppers with its Hatch Chile Festival from August 8-21.  They’ll feature not only roasted and off-the-vine Hatch chiles, but recipes, instructions, and all sorts of different Hatch-filled foods, from scones to salsa to cheeses and cookies, too. To find out just what it is that makes the Hatch Chile such a star in the world of peppers, we chatted with Central Market’s Patrick Taylor, who has a hand in getting the peppers from the farmers’ fields into the stores.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Patrick. To start off, can you tell us what exactly it is about the Hatch Chile that makes it such a great pepper?

First and foremost, it’s the flavor. The Hatch pepper is a great-tasting pepper; it looks like an Anaheim, but the flavor is much more distinct and lends itself to roasting more than any other pepper that I can think of.

With that flavor though, what you get is a very versatile pepper – it mixes so well with other things. For instance, Central Market makes guacamole, so right now, instead of using jalapenos, we’re using Hatch peppers, both hot and mild – and I personally prefer the flavor of the Hatch guacamole.

Then, if you go down our Protein Alley – our meat and seafood sections – you’ll find an assortment of meats prepared with the Hatch peppers; we’ve got steaks that have been marinated with it and hamburgers that have been prepared with it, as well as a variety of other things. Then if you go over to the bakery and deli – well, you could just say that everyone’s in the game.

What’s your favorite culinary application for them?

I was actually just at a barbecue, and right before it I went into Central Market and picked up a bag of mild and a bag of hot Hatch peppers. I cleaned up the char on the peppers, took the seeds out, and just made a big pile of mild and a big pile of hot on a plate, and we were mixing them with the sausages, the steaks, and even the potatoes – if you take your spud, open it up and put your butter, cheese, chives, and then put some of the roasted Hatch peppers on top, it’s a great way to start off your steak and potato meal. They come roasted and fresh, too, so if you’re at a barbecue and you want to grill them or smoke them yourself, it’s easy to do.

I even tried the hatch brownies – I’ve got a sweet tooth, but I don’t typically like too many vegetables in my brownies! But I tried the hatch brownies, and they were excellent.

So why does the Hatch Chili only make an appearance for a few weeks a year?

Well, first, because you can’t just grow Hatch peppers anywhere – they have to come from Hatch, New Mexico, so they’re dependent on the growing season.

The interesting thing about Hatch season is that they need a little longer on the vine to heat up. They need dry, hot weather. So right now, if you were to try the hot Hatch peppers, they’d be just a little more mild than what you’re going to see a week from now or two weeks from now. If you’re really into the hot peppers, they’ll definitely be getting some more heat as we progress over the next few days and weeks.

In fact, I was talking our guy out there in Hatch, and I was asking him just for a little insight on how hot the peppers were right now. He said the heat’s there, but they’re getting hotter.

How hot are they?

As far as comparing them to another pepper, they can be as hot as a jalapeno, or even hotter.

So how is Central Market relationship with the farmers in Hatch?

I was out there just a few weeks ago and we walked right out there in the fields, saw all the peppers that were going to be in our stores. We met the farmers, and it’s a nice thing knowing where these peppers are coming from; meeting and shaking the hands of the farmers and their brokers. It’s nice to personally know the people you’re dealing with, especially with Hatch peppers, because a lot of people want to know, are these from Hatch? Yes. Always.

What is it that makes the Hatch Chili Festival particularly special for Central Market?

Hatch got started with Central Market a long time ago (17 years). It was really Central Market that got the thing rolling with the roasting and the promotions. What’s amazing to me is how big it’s remained with Central Market even after everybody else has gotten into the mix. From the restaurants to some other grocery and retail chains out there, people still come from all over – even from out of state. I was up with the guys in the Dallas area last year and they said that they had folks from Oklahoma, Arkansas, even Missouri and Kansas coming down here just to get their Hatch peppers.

Lucky for us, then, that you’re right around the corner?

Definitely (laughs).

About Entrée Dallas