It’s green chile time in New Mexico! Producers and consumers alike are firing up their grills and burning the skin off of these beautiful chile peppers in order to produce some of the tastiest and most delicious chile on earth! Yes, I know that’s a big boast, but, as I’ve said many times before, we New Mexicans are proud of our chile. It was a couple of years ago when I first introduced green chile and chile roasting by chile growers and sellers. Today, I’m going to show you how I roast chile on my home grill. I use this same method to roast bell peppers and poblanos as well. Once roasted, the peppers are peeled and de-stemmed, some if not all of the seeds and piths are removed, and then the flesh is used immediately in a variety of dishes or frozen to be used later in the winter for enchiladas, green chile stews, grits, or whatever your heart desires. So let’s get to roasting.
You’ll need a few supplies:
- A gas or charcoal grill. (I use a gas grill.) You could also use your broiler when you just have a few peppers.
- A sharp paring knife
- Long, heat resistant tongs for handling the peppers on the grill.
- A large bowl to put the peppers in after roasting.
- A very damp towel to cover the peppers with after roasting so they’ll steam. You could also use a large pot with a cover.
- Food safe vinyl or latex gloves (Gloves are needed for the chile peppers, but not for sweet peppers.)
- Cutting board
- Trash or compost bucket
- Clean bowl for the prepared chiles.
Step 1: Preparing the peppers for roasting
- Prepare the grill for a high heat. (I turn all three burners on high.)
- Wash the peppers.
- Using the tip of a sharp knife, poke a hole in the pepper. If you want to use the chile for rellenos (stuffed peppers), then place the hole near the stem. If you’re just going to chop the peppers, then it doesn’t matter where you poke it. Same thing goes for bell peppers, except that I poke bell peppers twice. The hole is needed to allow air to escape during the roasting process, keeping the peppers from bursting. This is actually more important for bell peppers than it is for chile peppers; however, if you want whole, intact peppers, this helps to ensure it.
- Arrange the peppers in rows on the grill as shown below and close the lid.
Step 2: Roasting the peppers
- About every 2 to 3 minutes (3 to 4 minutes for bell peppers) check the peppers and turn the ones whose skin has blacken on the grill side. You want the skins to turn black and start to pull away from the peppers. So when one side turns black, flip the pepper over.
- Keep checking and tuning until all sides of the peppers are charred. For bell peppers, I sometimes have to stand them on end in order to get the bottoms to roast.
- Be careful to not over roast the peppers, especially chiles. The longer they sit on the grill, the more moisture they lose. If the blackened skin breaks, the fire will start to roast the flesh of the pepper, drying it out and taking the goodness away. So you want them to cook fast, thus the high heat and frequent checking.
Step 3: Steaming the peppers
- Have the bowl and towel ready next to the grill. When a pepper is fully roasted, remove it from the grill. toss it in the bowl and cover with the damp towel. This steams the peppers, making them easier to peel once cool.
- Once all of the peppers are roasted and covered in the bowl, let them cool for about an hour.
A note about capsaicin. Capsaicin is the primary chemical that gives chile its heat and what causes the burning sensation with you eat chile. The higher the amount of capsaicin, the hotter the chile. Within a single chile, the capsaicin level changes depending on the part of the chile – the flesh, the seeds or the pith (the whitish veins on the inside of the chile). According to the following test (which definitely supports my experience with chile), if you want to reduce the heat in a batch of chile, remove the piths after roasting.
Cook’s Illustrated recently published the results of a test performed by a food lab on the parts of a chile pepper and the amount of capsaicin in each part. The three parts tested were the flesh, the seeds, and the pith. After testing 40 jalapenos it was found that “there were just 5 milligrams of capsaicin per kilogram of green jalapeno flesh, 78 milligrams per kilogram in the seeds, and 512 milligrams per kilogram in the pith.” (“Common Cooking Myths, Debunked – All parts of a chile are equally hot.” Cook’s Illustrated. September / October 2013)
Step 4: Peeling and removing the stems and seeds from peppers
Wear gloves when peeling chile peppers. Your skin absorbs the capsaicin and if the chiles are HOT, you’ll eventually feel it in yours hands, and it’s not pretty. I learned my lesson several years ago when I didn’t wear gloves, and ended up having the keep my hands slathered in butter for a couple of hours to make the pain bearable.
- Remove the charred skin from the pepper by finding an area where the skin has lifted from the flesh or is torn, and peeling all of the skin away from the pepper.
- (For whole peppers) To remove the stem, cut through the flesh, just under the stem all of the way around the pepper. While holding on to the flesh, gently pull the stem, separating it from the pepper. You’ll probably need to use the knife to separate the pith (veins on the inside) from the peppers. To rid the pepper of more seeds, use your finger to clean some of the seeds from inside the pepper.
- (For chile rellenos with stems intact) If you plan on making chile rellenos by dipping in batter and frying, it’s best to leave the stems intact. However, you still want to remove as many seeds as possible, more for the eating experience than the heat factor. To remove the seeds, cut a slit about 1/2 the length of the pepper starting at the stem. With you paring knife, carefully cut out the seed stem inside the pepper and remove it along with some of the pith. Use your finger to remove as many seeds as possible.
- (For peppers that are going to be chopped) Cut them open vertically, then cut the flesh away from the stem. If you want to remove as much heat as possible, scrap off the seeds and cut away the pith.
Step 5: Freezing the peppers
- You can freeze peppers whole or chopped. I usually freeze peppers whole.
- To freeze, peel the peppers and remove the stems and seeds. You’ll be thankful you did this later on.
- Place about 3 to 4 whole chile peppers (depending on size and how you plan to use them) or 1 whole bell pepper in a sandwich bag.
- Press all of the air from the bag and seal.
- Transfer several of these bags into a freezer bag. (The double bagging helps to prevent freezer burn.)
- Label, date, and freeze.
Now that we have some roasted chile ready to go, here are some green chile recipes in which you can use them.
Here are some recipes for the roasted bell peppers.
Creamy Polenta with Roasted Vegetables by Spicie Foodie
Pesta Pizza with Roasted Peppers, Mushrooms and Asparagus by Oh My Veggies
After I finished roasting this batch of chiles, I was hungry, so I threw together a few Chicken Chile Rellenos.
Chicken Chile Relleno
Chile Relleno – Spanish for “stuffed peppers”
There was some leftover chicken breast in the refrigerator from the night before, so I stuffed a couple of peppers with some of the chicken, topped them with Monterey Jack cheese and microwaved for 30 seconds. What a delicious lunch! I know it’s not that pretty, but it sure was good!
Stay turned during the next few weeks for more new recipes using this year’s crop of green chile.
To purchase fresh or frozen New Mexico green chile, check out these New Mexico chile suppliers.