Hatch Ranchero Sauce
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Named after the original growing area in Hatch, New Mexico, authentic Hatch Peppers have always been a Southwestern favorite. No other pepper is prized more than this variety which grows in the Hatch Valley, just north of Las Cruces. The valley, which stretches along the Rio Grande’s southern-most bend before crossing into Texas and Mexico, is covered with row after row of these green leafy pepper plants for most of the summer. Chefs say that the intense sunlight and cool nights in this valley result in a uniquely flavored pepper that is unrivaled by any other. Luckily, they are now available to all of us!
Hatch Peppers are harvested from August through September. They have a meaty flesh and mild-medium heat making them ideal for use in Chile Rellenos, and other classic Southwestern dishes. But they are also great in sauces, salads, dips, and egg dishes.
Fresh Hatch Peppers are bright green, glossy peppers that are firm with medium to thick flesh. Refrigerate, unwashed in a plastic bag for up to 5 days. I like to stock up at the end of the season so that I can roast and freeze my peppers for use year round.
And in case you have a hankering out of season, the uniquely rich taste of this special pepper is now available in dried form, e.g. Hatch Pepper powder, both mild and spicy hot. The peppers can also be chopped and crushed for omelets or any dish to add a tasty zing. You can also *gently toast dried Hatch peppers in a small sauté pan before grinding in a spice mill for your own rich spicy chili powder.
I’m sharing a salsa recipe today that uses both fresh and dried Hatch peppers. Speaking of salsa, did you know the Spanish name for sauce refers only to a cooked combo of veggies and spices such as tomato, onion, cilantro, chilies lime juice and salt, for starters? If these ingredients are not cooked, it’s called Pico de Gallo or Salsa Cruda, but not Salsa!
Recently I made enchiladas with a typical enchilada sauce which does not include tomatoes. Ranchero sauce on the other hand, is similar in flavor and texture but it contains tomatoes. I prefer the latter and chose to create a Hatch Ranchero Sauce for my next batch of enchiladas. Hope you’ll enjoy!
Even if your garden is loaded with ripe tomatoes right now, it’s nice to have a reliable canned tomato salsa recipe on hand for those days when it isn’t. This recipe is medium spicy, but I would recommend making it once as written, before dialing up on the heat and adding more peppers. I like salsa on everything, not just chips. My breakfast eggs, grilled chicken, with cottage cheese - you name it.
Yield: 1 quart
1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
½ c diced roast Hatch peppers (or you can use green bell pepper, jalapeño, or whatever you favor)
1 tablespoon Melissa’s chopped garlic
1 (14.5 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 Melissa’s fire-roasted red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Hatch pepper powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked salt
Fresh lime wedges (garnish)
Heat oil in medium sauté pan. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and just starting to brown. Add the roasted peppers and garlic and cook for one minute, without browning the garlic.
Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, chicken broth and the remaining seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.
Cool slightly and carefully transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor or jar of a blender. Process or blend until smooth. Serve with fresh lime wedges.