These cookies were surprisingly delightful. Photos by Taylor Byrne Dodge
The cult of Hatch chiles — the beloved long green chile peppers grown in New Mexico — is a strong one. Its celebration happens just once a year, in August, and savvy Texans buy up pounds and pounds of the roasted chiles, bag them and deep freeze them at home until they want to make New Mexican chili, enchiladas or other chilly-weather comfort foods.
Starting today, August 9, and running through August 22, Central Market is celebrating the availability of New Mexico’s latest crop of Hatch chiles with a variety of special limited-time foods. (Also, have you been to the revamped Central Market? The construction is over, and the new layout is pretty slick.)
I always enjoy trying the store’s crazy Hatch chile food preparations every year. Central Market typically changes up their prepared food recipes with ingenious flavor combinations and brings back tried-and-true dishes from past years. They also purchase and manufacture various packaged foods that feature the chiles, from Hatch chocolate bars to absinthe and Hatch salami to hot Hatch queso, giving the seasonal chiles a little bit of longevity with jarred and boxed items.
Of the nearly 20 items I tried from this year’s Hatch haul, the following were my five favorites, and, yes, they’re going home with me.
- Hatch chile pimiento and cheese, from the prepared foods department.
You’re either a big fan of this classic cheese spread from Central Market, which they call Pam’s Pimiento Cheese, or you’re not. In my opinion, CM has mastered pimiento cheese. And for the Hatch season, they’ve simply folded in finely chopped Hatch chiles to their regular recipe, making it even more delicious.
- Hatch chile and sweet lime sandwich cookies, Central Market brand.
At first glance they seem gimmicky because the filling is green. However, the box reveals that the green color comes from spinach, so props to CM for bypassing man-made food coloring. The first bite is lightly citrusy, but by the second bite, you begin to feel the heat crawling up the back of your throat. I intended to eat only one, for research purposes, but as I write this, I’m now on cookie number five. These would be fantastic with a cup of chamomile tea.
- Hatch chile and jalapeno jam, Robert Rothschild
If you haven’t dabbled in Hatch chiles before, this is a good starting point. You could toss in a spoonful or two of this jam in a marinade or add it to your grilled-cheese sandwich. Baby steps.
- Hatch chile meatballs, from the prepared foods department.
These are large pork meatballs, what I would call “big boy meatballs” because they’re not messing around. They’re easy to incorporate into what I’m making for dinner tonight: A Hatch Bolognese spaghetti casserole. I’ll rough-chop six of these meatballs and tuck them away in the casserole pan between layers of pasta before baking it. One meatball with a side salad would make for a light lunch.
- Hatch Bolognese Sauce #1 from Infused Foods
If you like a snappy, spicy spaghetti sauce like I do you’ll want to stockpile a few jars of Infusion Foods’ Hatch Bolognese #1. We also tried the Tomatillo Hatch Pasta Sauce #3 from the same company, and it would play nicely with penne and grilled shrimp.