You can roast your own Hatch chiles at home if you have a gas stove.

The Hatch chile is a hybridized pepper that originated at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Hatch is the name of the town where most of the peppers come to market. There are dozens of famous cultivars including Big Jim and Sandia and each has its own characteristics. Hatch chiles can be mild, medium or hot. If its allowed to ripen to bright red it's called a "long red chile"—these are generally dried and turned into New Mexican chile powder.

18th Annual Hatch Chile Festival
Aug. 7—20
Central Market
3815 Westheimer
713-386-1700 

But during the late summer, when the peppers are still green, many New Mexicans buy a 20 pound sack of "long green chiles" and have them roasted in roadside propane burners with revolving wire mesh drums. The chile lovers eat all the green chiles they can and put the rest in the freezer to last until next year's harvest.

Central Market brought the green chile tradition to Houston. During their Hatch Green Chile Festival, you can buy green chiles to roast at home—or get a whole box of green chiles and have them roasted out in front of the store. An ample supply of roasted green chiles is a great thing to have in your freezer. The bright green pepper's deep, rich flavor speaks to the Texan palate. You can stuff them, broil them, liquefy them, or use them to make green chile posole, green chile stew, and green chile salsa.

A chile roast this evening will kick off the gourmet grocer's 18th annual festival starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m.At Central Market, the annual Hatch Chile Festival runs from August 8 through August 20. Along with the chiles themselves, you'll find tall manner of green chile products including tortillas, macaroons, tamales, queso, chips, bread, chocolate chip cookies, and even green chile beer and green chile lemonade.

Be careful—they're a lot hotter than your average jalapeño.

At tonight's chile roast, you'll have the opportunity to sample many of the hatch-laced products listed above, as well as buy batches of fresh-roasted chiles straight out of the roaster,

New items at this year's festival include Hatch chile tamales and Cave Creek Chili Beer. And should you need to cool the burn—which will sneak up on you, mark my words—Central Market will also have plenty of its palate cleansing Aloe Vera Juice/Coconut Water cocktails on hand.

Throughout the rest of the month, look for other Hatch-themed events such as a series of four cooking classes which all focus on the chile pepper. On Saturday, August 10, local chef Kathy Tauber will be leading a class on roasting chiles and incorporating them into both traditional and contemporary Southwestern recipes. On Friday, August 16, author Nicole Routhier will lead a class on using the Hatch chiles in Asian recipes such as grilled lemongrass chicken, Filipino spicy salmon salad, and Malaysian shrimp fritters.

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