Turn up the Heat
The summer pepper: The best Austin restaurants to chow down on hatch chiles
Every summer harvest, a skinny emerald pepper arrives at our grocery stores and farmers markets and subsequently finds its way into homemade breads, juicy burgers, hot salsas and a variety of other Southern-centric fare. The hatch chile is a versatile ingredient that lends its unforgettable signature flavors to any dish it’s combined with — which is why we love it so!
Wondering where you can experience this culinary gem? Read on to see what local restaurants are doing with the signature savory pepper.
What: With the help of a hatch chile puree made with rice wine soy sauce, tomatoes and hatch chiles, Executive Chef Sun II has crafted his take on Texas Poke. The Japanese seafood course is prepared with a bright mixture of tuna, salmon, snapper, caviar, kizami nori and spicy soy and then topped off with the hatch chile sauce. The chef created the dish to pay homage to local cuisine and utilize the spicy pepper while it's in season.
Where: Mellizoz Tacos
What: Known for bold Tex-Mex courses, South Austin food truck Mellizoz Tacos took inspiration from New Mexico to create the newest taco. “Our favorite part of cooking with hatch chiles is the flavor and spiciness roasting brings out,” says Jessica Galindo-Winters, co-owner of Mellizoz Tacos. The team has put together a seared salmon taco or plate, made with hatch corn pico, purple cabbage, soft avocado and roasted hatch aioli. For those who aren’t necessarily looking for a full meal, Mellizoz is also offering a hatch chile queso. Consider us sold!
Where: Hopdoddy Burger Bar
What: The Llano Poblano is a popular staple at Hopdoddy Burger Bar, but when hatch chiles sprout, Hopdoddy replaces the bold poblanos with the ever-popular hatch chile pepper. Made with house-ground Angus beef, melted pepper jack cheese, roasted hatch chiles, thick apple-smoked bacon and chipotle mayo, this burger definitely kicks up the heat.
Where: Easy Tiger
What: After creating his hatch chile chicken sausage with charred poblano peppers and onion relish, Executive Chef Drew Curren had no idea the link would become so popular. “We thought it would be fun to order a couple cases of Hatch chiles, roast them off and feature them in a sausage,” he says. “Lo and behold, we created our highest-selling sausage of the summer and had to order a lot more chilies — 400 pounds, to be exact. The earthliness of the chiles gives the links great depth of flavor, and the mildness of the chicken lets the chile truly shine through as the star ingredient.”
Where: Whole Foods Market
What: As if twice-baked potatoes weren't indulgent enough, Whole Foods has taken gluttony a step further. Baked with hatch chiles, black beans, corn, sour cream, Monterey Jack cheese, parsley and cayenne pepper, this spud packs a punch of heat. “It’s a guest favorite and [one] that we feature every year during hatch season,” says Rachel Dunlap, Research and Development Chef for the Southwest Region of Whole Foods Market. For those who want to utilize the pepper at home, Dunlap has some useful tips. “You can use hatch chiles the same way you would serranos or jalapeños, but they are really delicious roasted. Hatch are versatile in that they come in a range of spice levels so you can get them from mild to extra hot. Hatch chiles are meaty, have a great leathery texture and a natural hint of smoky flavor. Try them chopped up in a quesadilla, mixed into some macaroni and cheese, or add them to your green juice or smoothie for an extra kick.”
Where: Black’s Barbecue
What: As we mentioned in our peach feature a few days ago, Black’s Barbecue is nearing its Austin opening. Until then, we’re left to imagine what dishes we’ll be able to dive into at this legendary barbecue haunt. Right now, the Lockhart restaurant is featuring a homemade hatch chile sausage. A seasonal variation of the original Black’s sausage recipe, the team uses trimmings from brisket and pork ribs and combines the proteins with salt, pepper and a handful of secret ingredients to create the divine savory link. "Our inspiration for the sausage came from family trips to New Mexico," says Barrett Black, fourth generation pitmaster. "We dice the chiles to the perfect size and add them into the sausage mixture. Our slow smoking process over post oak wood is what gives of our meats their great flavor and enhances the chile flavor. The addition of the hatch chile provides the sausage with a little more kick and texture that we and our customers love."