Hatch…It’s Not an Egg Redeux and New Mexico Spoon Bread, by Beverly Hicks Burch

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Several years ago when I first started blogging over at The Steel Magnolia is an Iron Butterfly I wrote about Hatch chiles (this was before I segued my cooking to here at The Bistro). I’m re-blogging it here for a very specific reason.

You see, a couple of weeks ago or so, Tall & Handsome came home from a grocery store run like a conquering hero. He was excited and exhilarated. I couldn’t imagine what could have him all riled up.

Then, he open his mouth, “Honey, guess what I found at The Pig (Piggly Wiggly) today?”

I wanted to say a million dollars, but instead engaged and enthusiastically inquired, “What?!”

He pulled his new found treasure out of his grocery sack. See below:

Hatch chiles

That bird by the way is the state bird of New Mexico: the roadrunner.

Many of you may not understand the significance of this find: It is Nirvana for a New Mexican…the brass ring…a higher state of well being…

So, to clue you in, here is Hatch, It’s not and Egg, Reduex:

Well, it’s finally happened. You know that green chilies have becomes a really big thing when Southern Living, the Bible for all true GRITS (Girls Raised In The South) does a six page full color spread in their magazine with accompanying recipes. I on the other hand was ahead of this trend and knowledge when I married Tall and Handsome, a Native New Mexican, but, I must add…he is a New Mexican with very Southern roots. Yes, I had foreknowledge of the chile revolution.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. T & H and I met in a rather unconventional way. Yes, we met online…there, I said it. No, it wasn’t in a sleazy chat room or anything like that…it was playing an online game. My very Southern momma will be very chagrined to know I’ve told that, although she is quite fond of Tall and Handsome now. Daddy was afraid I’d met an ax murderer. Now, he, too, is fond of T & H and thinks he is head and shoulders above the ex, Gomez (his pseudonym).

I was very cautious and we courted long distance for almost a year before we met face to face. Then, he had to meet me on home territory which meant meeting my former-mechanical-engineer/project-manager-retired-turned-pastor-father, mom and son who was returning home from duty in the Middle East. You could tell Tall & Handsome was raised by a Southern momma…he came bearing gifts from the southwest for each member of my family. (My gift was a beautiful silver and turquoise Cross hand-crafted by local Native Americans.) No wonder he’s been called the Silverfox…

I can tell you this…if he is an ax murderer he is the most patient one in the history of mankind…he waited almost a year to meet me and he’s still waiting to  hack me to death almost 11 years later and nine years into a marriage…what kind of axe murder is that?

Well, after his visit, he returned to New Mexico and I planned a trip out to visit him and see some sights in the southwest. He made plans and squired me around the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on a VIP pass. We drove up to Santa Fe and actually got engaged there. And, I had some fantastic food…I learn about chiles…both red and green.

New Mexicans don’t like chiles…they are passionate about chilies. Everywhere you go you can see chile ristras hanging…for sale in different sizes…for decorations, for use, and yes even a hot air balloon at the Fiesta, which I thought was rather bizarre looking and anywhere else would have been considered obscene. Those big blown up red chiles stacked on top of each other floating in the New Mexico sky just looked…wrong…

Even though a chile is technically a fruit, it is the official vegetable of the state of New Mexico. They like `em green and they like `em red. If you can’t make your mind up which you want…no problem…ask for Christmas on the side and you get both.

There has been some competition between New Mexico and Texas over who is the chile state winner, but, I think New Mexico and New Mexicans pretty much win by default and the amount of Capsaicin per cc of blood. Let’s put it this way…if there was a way to measure chile intake like alcohol with a breathalyzer…well, most New Mexicans would stay three sheets in the wind on chiles.

This is not necessarily a bad thing though because unlike alcohol…chiles do have some health benefits. For example, one fresh chile pod has as much vitamin C as an orange, and a teaspoon of red chili powder has all the daily requirements of vitamin A. Capsaicin, the chemical found in chile that makes it hot is used in products to relieve the pain of arthritis and it’s used as an additive in bird feed to keep squirrels out…they really don’t like it. The Capsaicin doesn’t affect the birds…other than that it will help the Cardinals turn really red.

They take the chile so seriously in New Mexico…as seriously as the South takes football…that there is the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. The Institute does not have a football team…but, they do study Scoville units, or how hot the dang things are. They range from mild to “scorch you eyes out and melt you sinuses” to “blow out the back of your head”. T & H likes his somewhere in between the last two.

Like Georgia and their Vidalia onion, New Mexicans swear there is only one sacred place to get the “right stuff” and that is in Hatch, NM. You can get the fresh or canned kind from there. When Tall & Handsome moved South from New Mexico for our nuptials, about 75% of his U-Haul was filled with Hatch canned goods. That was the only thing I had to sign a pre-nup about…just kidding… Those puppies didn’t last long and the poor baby had to resort to buying other canned chopped green chiles that will remain nameless.

There is a big festival in Hatch every September during Labor Day weekend. During the fall in Hatch and in most of New Mexico you can buy a big burlap sack of chile peppers that weighs about 40 pounds. Then, you can have them roasted over an open flame in a big chicken wire barrel. It will cost you…I’m not sure what the fee is now, but it use to be about $15. The scent of roasting chiles permeates the air during the fall.

One year around September, not too long after T & H and I got married, we treated our neighbors in a sleepy little northwestern Alabama town to this exotic scent…for a very long time. Oddly, one day I found this HUGE brown box on our doorstep. It was emitting a very strong pungent scent. Since it wasn’t ticking, I went ahead and brought it inside, opened it up and…Viola, amigos…stuffed inside was a whole box of fresh green chile pods. Yep, one of T & H’s buddies had shipped him a box all the way from New Mexico.

Well, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on those puppies and roast them. He had a small problem. There weren’t any chile roasting people with big ol’ chicken wire drums in Marion County, Alabama. Being the resourceful chap that he is, he decided to do them himself…on the grill! Now mind you, this was in the days of pre-Weber grill. All we had at the time was a very small table top, camp size propane bottle powered grill. The surface top was about the size of a pin-head, but by Jove he roasted those chile peppers…and roasted those chile peppers and roasted those chile peppers. We finished just in time to put up the Christmas decorations…that is after removing the skins, placing them in plastic freezer bags and putting them in the freezer.

Now, I make chopped green chiles a staple in my pantry. Want to borrow some high quality chili powder? No problem. This is what happens when you marry a Tall & Handsome cowboy from New Mexico…with Southern roots who grew up in the South…

As I was browsing my Southern Living I saw the recipe below, New Mexico Spoon Bread, from the Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University. It had Tall and Handsome’s taste buds written all over it. I read it to him and his eyes lit up like a little boy at Christmas. We’ve enjoyed it with bean soup. Thought you folks might like to try it, too…

Just a note: The recipe calls for cheddar cheese. We had some grated Colby/Monterey Jack and used it and it was awesome!

© 2007, 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Ingredients for sppon bread

Some 0f the ingredients you’ll need…

New Mexico Spoon Bread

From Southern Living September 2007 – Recipe courtesy of The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University

1 (14.75 oz.) can cream style corn

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup yellow cornmeal

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cup (6 oz.) grated Cheddar cheese

1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chiles

Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9 inch square pan.

The batter will be thin!

the batter will be thin

Bake at 350˚ for 55 to 60 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

spoon bread out of the oven

Dig in!

New Mexico Spoon Bread

Enjoy!