Late August….early September…our ritual chile pepper roasting day came again this year just like clock-work. Wouter returned home to Nashville with a very large burlap bag of fresh red and green New Mexican chile peppers straight from the fields around Hatch.
This was a hard year for chile growing in New Mexico, not enough rain for too long left much of this world-famous crop of peppers more scarce than usual. Therefore,I am even more delighted to have a little part of this years New Mexican chile pepper harvest.
In his haste to get packed up for his drive back to Nashville, Wouter bought 2 bags of peppers, tossed them in the back of the car…heading East….thinking one was mild & one hot. Not so…one HOT and one X-HOT for roasting day..even better!
Roasting these peppers with their fleshy skins and thick meat is quite easy. Just a few steps takes the chile fresh from the bag to being fresh frozen in the freezer. New Mexican chiles have a very unique flavor that is both bold and earthy. We add them throughout the year to soups, egg dishes, salsa, pastas, steaks…..not to mention homemade ice cream….we’ll get back to that later. First the roasting……
Gather together the following: a few really cold beers; your chiles, prepare a charcoal grill with very hot coals (you can use a gas grill of course, but the charcoal just adds to the flavor); tongs, a couple of metal trays, a few large zip-lock type bags to “sweat” the peppers & some small pint size freezer zip-lock type bags to store peppers.
1. Sort through peppers tossing out any that are rotten. Pile good firm peppers in a pan & place close to the grill.
2. Start roasting. Wouter manned the grill….the cold beers helped!
3. When peppers are black on the outside and roasted, this happens pretty quickly, place on a metal pan to cool for a few seconds. I cannot adequately describe the smell wafting up and out of our backyard…the rich earthy chile roasting smell of these particular chiles…unless you have either been in and around Santa Fe during chile roasting time or have roasted your own…it is the smell of hard work, harvest time, and things that matter.
5. When they are cool enough to handle remove peppers, one by one, from the bag & peel. You might want to wear protective gloves for this part. I usually don’t but I make sure I clean my hands & fingernails with a nail brush after peeling. I do the peeling while Wouter roasts. A cold beer helps with this process also.
6. Peeling the peppers can be a bit tedious, but I enjoy the process. Don’t fret about getting every little piece of blackened skin off every pepper. A bit of the skin just adds to their flavor. Seeds? I pretty much discard what comes out easy & rest stay.
7. I add about 2 to 4 peppers to each small freezer bag & seal tightly, press out most of the air & freeze. (A couple of these babies will be enough for most recipes.)
I have been interested in using the fresh New Mexican chiles as an addition to a homemade ice cream concoction for a couple of year. This year I came up with just the right recipe and ingredients. Each one compliments the other very well.
“Chocolate Chile Pepper Mocha Ice Cream”
1 pint heavy cream; 1 pint whole milk; 1 tsp instant espresso powder; 2 tsp vanilla extract; 1 cup sugar; a dash of salt; 3 tbsp dark cocoa; 1/4 cup chopped frozen or fresh chile peppers (For this recipe I used an electric ice cream freezer.)
1. Freeze bowl of electric ice cream freezer based on directions with your particular brand.
2. Put sugar, salt, cocoa & chile peppers in the bowl of a food processor & pulse until well mixed & no chile chunks remain.
3. Heat cream & whole milk over medium heat. Do not boil. Add sugar-cocoa-chile mixture to pan & sir until sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla. Remove from heat. Bring to room temp & then chill in refrigerator.
4. Pour chilled mixture into the freezer bowl and freeze according to directions…about 20-30 minutes is what it took for mine to bring the mixture to the right texture.
My “Chocolate Chile Pepper Mocha Ice Cream” had the right amount of “hot & cold, sweet & chocolate”.