Down The Hatch

Down-the-hatch-illustration

Many years ago in another life I was an art director for Whole Foods Market. It was a fantastic job for a great company, and I joked that I actually got paid to make things pretty. I suppose I still do even though a few detractors might fault me for going through my green phase (pms 365 and 368 were evvvverrrrywheerrrree and no Meg, I wouldn’t have noticed I was overusing it until you pointed it out, thankyouverymuch).   The company was growing and opening stores all over and as a result I spent a few weeks in Santa Fe, New Mexico working on a new location.

During that trip one of my co-workers suggested we drive out and experience a Green Chile Cheeseburger. All you have to say is burger and I’m down for a food adventure, but little did I know this burger would remain in my memory for over 10 years.  She took us to the Bobcat Bite, a small outpost on Old Las Vegas Highway that’s been open since 1953.  It was so utterly fantastic and perfect and I felt like I stumbled onto a movie or music video set. My co-worker Polly commanded us to order the green chile burger and of course the entire table obliged.

And that’s where I first tasted this masterpiece.

I don’t know if you’re one of those types of people that need a burger piled high with everything in order to enjoy it. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Bacon, swiss, avocado, lettuce, mustard, mayo, pickles, relish, secret sauce, an onion ring, another pickle, grilled onions, raw onions, I could go on. Hey, I love a fully decorated burger like the next guy but there are moments where less is more. That’s why I found this burger — only beef, bun, cheese and green chile — utterly perfect.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I went to hear two Hatch Chile experts from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture give a quick demonstration at Melissa’s Produce in Vernon, California (oh Vernon, what a strange strange place you are) and discovered that Hatch Chiles don’t always come from a little can at the supermarket. In fact, they’re extremely seasonal, available for a short time of the year (as in RIGHT NOW!) and the subject of chile roasts, festivals, parties and get-togethers. I love peppers in all forms and usually reach for Anaheims in my recipes (which is actually the grandson of the Hatch!) but when it comes to peppers I have learned why Hatches can’t be beat.

So, let’s see: more even heat, thicker walls, edible seeds, unmatchable fresh, green chile flavor, the best rellenos, easy to roast and skin, the list goes on. And armed with this information and pepper availability I figured now was as good time as ever to try my hand at the burger that has lived in my memory for all these years.

Plain-and-grilled-hatches

I took a few peppers, roasted them over a flame until black and charred, and then put them in a bowl covered with saran wrap. They went into the freezer for a few minutes as I learned that cold peppers are easier to peel than warm.  Once peeled and all the bits of burned skin were removed I chopped them, seeds and all but minus the stem, into tiny little pieces, placed them on a burger and voila! My own little Green Chile Cheeseburger made with some of the most delicious chiles I’ve ever tasted! And pardon the pun but this burger went down the hatch in about 2 minutes. Ok, maybe one minute. I won’t lie.

Don’t you just love simple recipes?

(And contrary to what many people believe, the heat of a Hatch lives in the fruit’s walls, not the seeds. They’re edible!)

Comments

  1. says

    That looks fantastic! Coincidentally, I just turned on Food Network a few nights ago and it was Bon Appetit’s Top Restaurants in America or something – they broke it down by category and Bobcat Bite was tops for the burger category!!! :)

    Mmmm…. I want a burger now, thanks lol

  2. says

    I loved the food in New Mexico – we drove around the whole state on vacation a few years ago and the food was amazing. I really need to try to get back during Hatch chile season, that would be awesome.

  3. says

    My mother moved to New Mexico so this summer I got a chance to go to Hatch, New Mexico, and I went to that Whole Foods in Santa Fe, too! :) I think chiles on a hamburger are delicious….but tell that to an Italian! I haven’t found anyone willing to try it here.

  4. says

    I went to college in Santa Fe (years ago) and I remember driving into town every September through the heavy scent of roasting chile. What a way to go back to school!

  5. says

    Yum! Here in Denver we’re fortunate to have truckloads of Hatch chiles come up here at harvest time, complete with drum roasters. You buy a half-bushel or a bushel at a time (maybe you can buy less but I never do). Pop those chiles in the freezer in smaller bags and you’ve got roast chile goodness to last you a while.

    Strips of chiles are really great on a grilled cheese sandwich, too.

  6. says

    Matt, what a fantastic site. I live in El Paso Texas, so I guess we’re neighbors. I’ve been blogging for a few months now and I’m still trying to get the hang of everything that goes into blogging. But mostly, I’m having alot of fun. I love your photographs and your posts. Great job.

  7. says

    Thank you so much for bringing back memories of our great trip to New Mexico last year.
    Bobcat Bite was high on our list.
    I had lived in NM for years and miss it dearly

    I have photos of our Bobcat Bite burgers on my blog if you are interested.

  8. says

    I totally agree that less is so often more. I do like a decorated burger sometimes but I always keep the meat pure, just some seasoning – to always make sure I get the real flavour of the beef. I am loving the idea of these chillies in there too.

  9. Eric Wade says

    I missed my New Mexico chiles so much I actually started growing them from seeds at the house! They’ve been excellent, but you are right, there is nothing like a New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger.
    Great post.

  10. Nellie Gatewood says

    Where do you find those chiles? I don’t recall seeing them at the supermarket.

    I’d ask my son, but he’s not well.

  11. says

    Lovely photo, congrats on your first homemade green chile cheeseburger!

    If it can be believed, the whole thing started either in Santa Fe at Bert’s Burger Bowl, or at the Owl Cafe in San Antonio (south of Socorro). Either way, green chile plus cheese plus great beef cannot be denied.

  12. says

    Matt, I’m bustin’ up laughing because I lived down the road from Bobcat Bite and Harry’s Roadhouse for 12 years. Bobcat is an institution and historical landmark, but only the very few get initiated.

  13. says

    I stumbled upon your page after seeing the link on Smitten Kitchen. After scrolling down I saw the picture of the green chile cheese burger and I was so suprised! I am from New Mexico and I sell green chile for a living. One of the guys doing the chile talk was probably Ed Avalos. We eat green chile on everything here. Mix the chopped green chile with a little bith of garlic and salt and it is great with anything. I had my daily dose of green chile mixed into scrambled eggs this morning!

  14. says

    Wow… I discovered your blog after your appearance on MARTHA… VERY NICE INDEED. I have been reading & enjoying all of your foodie experiences and casual recipes. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico and shop at the Whole Foods Market all the time, it is doing so well here they have expanded and had to increase their parking. Anyway – to Green Chile – New Mexico’s State Vegetable. So good in many forms – this time of year families are processing sacks for the winter ahead – many places are set up to roast large quantities in rotating wire baskets attached to a propane flame – turning until all chili skins have charred. Then the real work begins – peeling, chopping and putting them into small freezer bags. Northern New Mexico residents try chili on most foods… BUT the Chili Burger is a real treat. If you find yourself needing a chili fix… feel free to ask for a couple of our frozen delights – they overnight well. Ciao and good eating – Alvin

  15. Fulmer says

    Great blog. I was referred by K of http://sheeats.wordpress.com/ . I’ve eaten @ Bobcat Bites several times and it is a state treasure (wait, make it a national one). We had several Hatch Chile fests here in Houston just before Ike and I had plenty of roasted Hatch chiles to get me through the loss of power. I never lost gas (is that a double entendre?), so cooking & eating was the preferred activity.

    THX,

    your latest fan.

  16. Alison says

    Hey Matt — just found your site, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE.

    I’m obsessed with food photography (and food), and I love your graphic sense of style! I’m also a graphic designer/art director and feel inspired just looking at your blog!

    Question — were you involved with the re-design of Bon Appetit? These photos look very similar to their new style…just curious and i wanted to ask.

    Thanks!

  17. Denise says

    Oh DROOL – Never had the urge to go to NM TIL NOW!…. YUMMMMMM!

    I stumbled onto your blog site via a comment that you posted on 101 cookbooks regarding Mexican Wedding Cakes (couln’t agree with you more BTW!) I have fallen in love with your blog! Thank you!

  18. brooke says

    love this photograph…can you tell me what typeface you’re using on the image?

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