The smell of roasting chilies is wafting north from roots in New Mexico and, more recently Southern California.
Green chilies, which range in temperature from spicy to incendiary, are to New Mexican food what tomatoes are to Italian cooking. They are ubiquitous in sauces and are delicious when stuffed and fried for chilies rellenos. New Mexico’s treasured variety, Hatch, is produced in a small, hot, dry valley in the state’s out-of-the-way southwestern corner,
Because of the chilies’ popularity, Hatch growers are threatened by unscrupulous sellers who use that name to sell peppers grown in other areas. So Hatch chili growers have banded together to ask the government to recognize their crop, similar to what has been done by Vidalia onion growers and Napa Valley winemakers, according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.
In Southern Oregon, growers are capitalizing on the Southwest tradition of roasting chilies, even if varieties are more humble. Anaheim, ancho, jalapeno, sweet Italian and cherry peppers grown by Fry Family Farm all get a turn in a custom-fabricated roaster patterned after one that farmer Suzy Fry saw in Portland.
“It just smelled so good, and it just seemed like it could be a fun thing to do,” said Fry, who has been roasting chilies at local farmers markets for the past three years.
After the chilies have tumbled in the roaster to char the skin — just a few minutes — customers can take them home by the pound. Chilies prepared this way can be frozen as-is to be pulled out and used later. They must be peeled before using.
Although Fry Family’s roaster will be absent from Saturday’s first Salsa Festival and Showdown in downtown Medford, the Talent farm will be stocking its booth with preroasted chilies. They’re sure to be popular with contestants in the salsa competition, which I’ll be judging. Follow the event on my Twitter and Facebook profiles.
To claim chilies fresh from the roaster, head to Ashland Food Co-op from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, when Fry Family will be promoting the store’s Love Local Week.
Or find the Frys’ chilies through the end of October at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters markets. Roasted chilies cost about $5 per pound.
If, like me, you have chilies growing in your garden, it’s easy to roast them under your oven broiler. See this 2010 post for tips. After meals of tortilla soup, turkey chili and nachos, this macaroni and cheese, courtesy of the Times, is up next.
Tribune News Service photo
Green Chili Mac and Cheese
1 pound whole-wheat macaroni, penne or other dried pasta shape
Salt, as needed
1/4 cup butter, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1/2 onion, peeled and minced
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
5 cups grated sharp cheddar, divided (about 1 pound)
1/2 to 3/4 cup peeled, seeded, chopped fresh or frozen green chili
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Heat oven to 350 F, and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cook pasta, then drain and rinse briefly under cold running water. Set aside.
Melt the 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced onion and cook until soft, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a paste cook for 2 minutes to remove raw flour taste. Add the milk, a bit at a time, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens.
Stir in the goat cheese until thoroughly blended. Stir in 4 cups of the cheddar and cook until melted and smooth. Stir in the green chili, adding more to taste. Season to taste with about 1 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.
In a small saucepan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir in the panko breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and stir in remaining cheddar cheese.
Stir cooked pasta into sauce mixture and spoon it into prepared baking dish, evening top with back of a spoon. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over top. Bake in preheated oven until mixture is beginning to brown and bubble, for about 40 minutes.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.