For Southwestern food lovers, New Mexico Hatch green chiles have long been a sought-after ingredient from a very specific place — the village of Hatch, off Interstate 25 between Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences.
Adding to the allure, the chiles are only harvested once a year, usually early August through late September. Over Labor Day weekend, some 30,000 chile lovers make the pilgrimage to Hatch for the annual Hatch Valley Chile Festival.
But you don’t need to travel to New Mexico to experience the distinctive flavor of Hatch green chiles. Here in Atlanta, some chefs and restaurants feature them in seasonal dishes, and celebrate the harvest in a big way, too.
Every year, Taqueria del Sol, the popular Atlanta-based Mexican-Southwestern-Southern restaurant franchise, gets a large shipment of Hatch green chiles to use in a variety of ways and at the annual Foxeria del Sol Hatch Chile Fest in August.
Executive chef and co-owner Eddie Hernandez and his team put them in tacos, tamales, enchiladas, and even jambalaya and an unusual chicken pot pie. But Hernandez’s fried green chile relleno, with its crispy coating and oozing cheese, is the big hit of the season.
As in New Mexico, the chiles are blackened and blistered in gas-fired drum roasters, releasing a smoky, fruity aroma. The peeled chiles that aren’t used straight from the roasters are frozen for sauces and specials throughout the year.
Taqueria del Sol co-owner Mike Klank was one of the first to bring the flavor of Hatch to Atlanta. He encountered dishes made with green chiles during trips to New Mexico. After he opened his first restaurant, Azteca Grill, in Clayton County in 1987, they became a regular part of the menu.
“The food in New Mexico was different,” Klank says. “And I realized pretty quickly that the reason it was different was mainly because of the green chiles. We would bring them back to cook with at home.
“In 1988, at Azteca, was the first time we brought a pretty good amount back, and Eddie in his genius came up with the relleno. Now we bring in something like 10,000 pounds.”
Beyond the relleno, one of Klank’s favorite Hernandez creations is Carne Adovada Verde, a hearty pork stew from New Mexico most often made with dried red chiles.
“We tried it with green chiles and we really like it better,” Klank says. “We serve it with white rice and tortillas. But we’ve made it as a burrito, and that’s delicious, too.”
Growing up in Albuquerque, Jack Sobel, the chef-owner of Agave Restaurant in Atlanta, says green chiles were a way of life.
“In Albuquerque, we were accustomed to putting real Hatch green chiles on everything,” Sobel remembers. “We had them breakfast, lunch, dinner, pretty much everything included green chiles. Pizza places used them. Even McDonalds had green chiles on their cheeseburgers.”
When Sobel opened Agave in 2000, he knew he wanted to showcase green chiles on the menu. You’ll find them in quesadillas, enchiladas and burritos as well as, meatballs, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
But Sobel’s signature is his Hatch green chile stew, a dish he worked on at a few other Atlanta restaurants before it became a staple at Agave. And, recently, when he agreed to share the recipe, it was with some fanfare.
“Its the first time I’m sharing this recipe with anybody, ever,” he says. “I’ve had customers ask for it forever and I’ve always said no. However, I have to post an asterisk on it. Most green chile stew in New Mexico is made with pork. I use beef tenderloin. I think it tastes really great. And it’s great for people who don’t eat pork.
“That’s kind of my spin on it. That’s kind of what Agave is all about. We’re a Southwestern restaurant and tequila bar, so we have the freedom to do our twists on things, and do pretty much anything we want.”
When Chuy’s opened its first metro Atlanta location in Dunwoody in 2011, the Austin-based Tex-Mex chain brought its founders’ love of Hatch green chiles along in the form of their annual Green Chile Festival.
Now, Chuy’s has three more area locations, and the Green Chile Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary later this month.
RELATED: More hatch green chile recipes
“Tex-Mex is the type of food that we serve,” says Joel Docking, the owner and operator of the Alpharetta Chuy’s. “That actually originates in the Texas, New Mexico and Mexico area. And a lot of our recipes come from Hatch, New Mexico, where we have two farms that grow and process green chiles exclusively for Chuy’s.
“I think Chuy’s has changed its menu five times in 36 years. Green chile harvest time in August is the only time we actually add new menu items, and just for that three-week period. So this time we’ll have three brand-new items and a couple of combo plates.”
Among those items, Docking shared the recipe for green chile chicken flautas, a new take on an old menu favorite that’s stuffed with a cheese and spinach blend, in addition to the chiles.
“For me, Hatch green chiles have heat, but it’s flavorful heat,” Docking says. “It’s a good pepper heat. You can feel it, but it’s not overwhelming, and it has that nice smoky aroma and flavor. People come to the Chuy’s Green Chile Fest like it’s Christmas. They look forward to it all year.”
These recipes celebrate the pleasures of Hatch green chile season. Large, slender and pale green, fresh New Mexico green chiles are similar to Anaheim chiles, but with a distinctive mellow heat and fruity flavor. Look for them in August in Mexican markets or order them online from New Mexico purveyors, such as hatchchileexpress.com.
Chuy’s Green Chile Chicken Flautas
This new recipe developed by the chefs at Austin-based Chuy’s to celebrate the restaurant’s 30th annual Green Chile Festival is a take on a menu favorite, chicken flautas, with roasted New Mexico Hatch green chiles added to the mix.
Taqueria del Sol Carne Adovada Verde
This hearty pork stew is a New Mexico staple most often made with dried red chiles. In this version, chef Eddie Hernandez of Atlanta-based Taqueria del Sol uses roasted and peeled Hatch green chiles to make a dish with deep, smoky flavor.
Agave Restaurant Hatch Green Chile Stew
This version of New Mexico Hatch green chile stew from Agave chef-owner Jack Sobel has remained a favorite on the menu at the Atlanta restaurant since it opened in 2000. Of note, it substitutes beef tenderloin for the more common pork shoulder.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.