Some of the greatest chilies you'll ever eat hail from New Mexico's Hatch Valley, which is why — naturally enough — tiny Hatch, N.M., is known as "The Chili Capital of the World." This being the season for Hatch chilies, I thought it might be fun to showcase them at one of your very own backyard parties.
There's something about the soil and growing conditions in that region of New Mexico that creates the uniquely delicious flavor of the Hatch chili, just as the "terroir" of the world's great wine-growing regions produces the best grapes. Hatch chilies are long and green, boasting a thick skin and thick flesh. Their heat ranges from mild to flaming hot. Local folks tend to buy these local favorites already roasted and in 25-pound bags, and then to store the chilies in their freezer for use throughout the year. The rest of us can snatch them up in supermarkets from coast to coast or online in smaller amounts, already charred and peeled.
If you're open to charring and peeling the pepper yourself, just apply the same methods you'd use with any other chili: hold it with tongs over an open gas flame, or char the skin on a hot grill or cast-iron skillet, or place the chili under a broiler until it's blackened on all sides, then transfer it to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap for 20 minutes. After the chili's had a chance to steam, the tough skin peels off easily.
Roasted Hatch chilies are one of the signature ingredients of the well-loved Green Chile Cheeseburger. Here I've swapped out the beef in favor of Portobello mushrooms. You'll be looking for specimens with large caps because they shrink down when they're cooked. And be sure to scrape out the gills before cooking the mushrooms (grapefruit spoons do a terrific job) because they become slimy when cooked and proceed to dye whatever they touch an unappealing black.
Even without the beef, this burger is deluxe. It's glorified not only by the chilies and cheese, but also by the smoky mayonnaise spread, and — the finishing touch! — the crushed tortilla chips. It's a splendid way to celebrate the end of the summer season.
Green chili cheese portobello burger
Start to finish: 1 hour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 chopped, peeled, roasted Hatch chilies (about 1 cup) or 1 cup canned green chilies
4 thin slices sharp cheddar (about 3 ounces total)
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
4 hamburger buns
2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing on the buns
Preheat the grill to medium.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, the vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of the garlic, the cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Brush all of the marinade on the mushrooms, making sure to coat the insides (where the gills were) really well. Set the mushrooms aside for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another small bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the remaining 2 teaspoons lime juice, the remaining teaspoon garlic and the paprika. In another bowl toss the chilies with salt and pepper to taste.
Brush the cut sides of the buns with the butter and toast them on the grill. Set aside while you grill the mushrooms.
Place the mushrooms on the grill, gill sides down, cover and grill them 6 to 8 minutes. Turn them over and grill on the on the other side, covered, until tender when pierced with a knife, another 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon one-fourth of the chilies on top of each mushroom. Top with one fourth of the crushed tortillas and a slice of the cheese. Cover and cook, until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
Spread the cut sides of the rolls with the mayonnaise. Transfer the mushroom "burgers" to the buns and serve right away.
Nutrition information per serving: 716 calories; 469 calories from fat; 52 g fat (13 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 851 mg sodium; 51 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 13 g protein.
Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "HomeCooking 101."