I had my very first Hatch chile last week.
Every year I see the social posts, watch all the roastings that take place around the Southwest, and keep my eye out for them with no luck in getting my hands on any.
But this year, a box arrived at my door and I opened it to find a big beautiful bag of these peppers. If you are unfamiliar, the peppers are grown in the valley around Hatch, New Mexico. Only peppers grown there are true Hatch chiles, and as was reported to me, they have an earthy, fresh flavor that sets them apart from other varieties. And they are in season as we speak, just a few weeks every year.
Melissa’s Produce has sent me foods in the past when I just want to have a little fun in the kitchen and experiment. So when I dropped them a note to ask for Hatch chiles, they kindly sent some my way. Needless to say, I let out a small cheer when the FedEx driver rang the door bell.
Once I had them in my possession, I did debate for a while about what I was going to do with them. You’ve likely seen video footage on the web of the huge roasting bins and how the chiles are beautifully blackened before the skin is removed and they are turned into all sorts of salsas and sauces. But I’d also read that they are great stuffed.
Knowing the grill was the only thing I had that was remotely close to those roasting baskets, it was settled. Stuffed and grilled.
I’ve learned something about the Hatch chile, they are not all mild! Actually, there are a few different kinds and sizes that predict their heat level.
I tend to like spicy food so as I was prepping these, I put a seed on my tongue. Basically, no heat at all. Then the first, pepper we both ate – perfectly balanced with just a touch of warmth. My husband’s next one, though? On fire, even for me.
So my point is, give these all a bit of a test before moving forward with your recipe if you don’t like full-on jalapeno hot.
Otherwise, though, the shrimp stuffing I used in these was definitely the way to go. I typically go towards beef, pork, or black beans when stuffing so it was a nice change. Plus, while I don’t always find wild caught sustainably fished full-size shrimp here, there is a variety of salad (small) shrimp at our supermarket here that fit those criteria. They are perfect for chopping and blending which is exactly what I did for this recipe.
The shrimp is mixed with just a little cream cheese, garlic, green onions, and cilantro. Since the shrimp were thawed from frozen and a bit damp, I threw in a couple tablespoons of panko bread crumbs to absorb moisture. You can likely skip this, but expect liquid to cook out and into your foil packets. It might make the pepper a little soggy.
After being stuffed, I wrapped them tightly and grilled them for about 25 minutes. With limes for squeezing and a sprinkle of queso fresco and cilantro, they were ready to serve.
Shrimp Stuffed Hatch Chiles
Makes: 2 to 4 servings
What you’ll need:
2 cups cooked small salad shrimp, defrosted if frozen
4 green onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt, or to taste
4 medium-to-large Hatch chiles
Chopped cilantro, queso fresco, and lime wedges for garnish
How to make it:
Preheat the grill to about 325 degrees F.
Add the shrimp, onions, garlic, cream cheese, cilantro, and lime juice to a food processor. Pulse in 3 to 4, 10-second intervals until the ingredients are finely chopped, but not fully pureed. You want the filling to hold together when you take a spoonful. Stir in the panko bread crumbs and salt to taste.
Cut a narrow slit in each pepper that will allow you to stuff it. You can discard the small strip you pull out, or finely chop it and add it to the filling. Scrape out as many seeds and internal veins as possible using a spoon.
Tear off 4 pieces of aluminum foil that are large enough to fully wrap each pepper. Rub one side of the foil with a light coating of olive oil. Place a pepper in the center of the foil. Use a spoon (or your hands) to fill the inside of each pepper with the shrimp stuffing. Push it into the length of the pepper and fill completely.
Wrap each pepper in the piece of foil taking note of the top of the pepper with the slit. You will want to grill them slit side up so all the filling stays inside. Twist the ends to close up the foil.
Place on the grill, close the lid, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the peppers begin to brown and become tender and the filling is heated through. Use protected hands to carefully remove the hot foil.
Arrange the peppers on a serving plate and sprinkle with cilantro and queso fresco. Lime wedges can be squeezed over the top, just before eating.