SLOW COOK HATCH STEW
By Dennis Linden
As the Hatch Pepper harvest hits the peak of quality and volume, our representative in Hatch country, Adam Aguilar, submits a recipe that celebrates this unique tasting pepper in one of the oldest forms of cooking – the one pot stew. For Adam, this dish is more than a meal, it’s a cherished memory.
“My mom made this for us kids growing up in El Paso, Texas,” Adam explained. “Then, when I was about nine-years-old, my family moved to Southern California. Still, every time she would make this dish it always reminded me of back home in the southwest, in El Paso. Even now that I am back living in El Paso, just the smell of it simmering on the stove brings me back to those carefree childhood days, when my mom would serve this to our whole family sitting around a big table.”
While the chile pepper growers of New Mexico did not organize their unique crop into a marketing endeavor until the backing of the state legislature’s proclamation in 2012, the chile pepper has been a major crop in the region for a century. The development of the pepper actually began in 1894, by a researcher at New Mexico State University who was trying to improve the size and smoothness of the pepper for the commercial canning industry. He kept at it, cross-breeding and growing, until he released a variety called New Mexico No. 9 in 1913. All New Mexican chili peppers owe their genetic base to this pepper strain. The Hatch Chile Pepper, grown exclusively in the Mesilla Valley near Hatch, New Mexico, is considered to be one of the most flavorful peppers in the world due the valley’s unique micro-climate and fertile soil composites.
So, Adam’s mom definitely used a variety of the Hatch pepper in her original recipe, probably even before there was a famous Hatch Chile Festival. Though I am guessing that Adam, good Melissa’s rep that he is, subbed in our Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes for the local tuber that mom probably used. Bravo, Adam, and there is nothing wrong with tweaking a recipe for the better, even if it is mom’s!
Key to Adam’s stew for flavor is the roasting of the peppers. I always find the roasting of Hatch Peppers to be a fascinating task; it’s challenging to roast as many peppers at once as one has stovetop burners; then jumping from burner-to-burner, flipping peppers with a pair of tongs. Fun stuff! Once roasted, pop the hot peppers in a paper bag to steam off the outer skin. When cool, the skin will come right off in your fingers. Then, split each pepper down the middle, slice the top off and wash out the seeds under cold water. Like most all slow-cook recipes, the prep of each ingredient is most important, and then letting all those ingredients cook “into” each other in the crockpot. If you are cooking for a big family, this stew will probably make one hearty meal for everyone. As a single head of household, I was able to enjoy this delicious stew for several one-dish meals with just a quick heat-up. I think each serving got a little better!
Adam Aquilar has been a member of Melissa’s off-site team of regional representatives working on behalf of the company throughout the country for almost five years. As already mentioned, Adam is native of El Paso and knows the entire southwest region well. This local knowledge helps in his approach when working with Melissa’s retail grocery store accounts throughout the area.
“I believe that the key to increasing market share with any retailer is listening. Meaning, instead of starting the conversation with a list of produce items that I want to sell, I first try to build confidence with the customer that I am here to help create a "reaction" by the consumer to any of our products and marketing tools that the retailer thinks might create customer interest and loyalty, the goal of every retailer,” Adam stated, then clarified. “The challenging part is that I am working in a marketplace environment of competing entities all vying for the attention and loyalty of same retailers. Knowing the competition as well as the customer takes keeping up on trade innovations, extensive research and diligent retail reconnaissance. I approach my job as being the humble servant to the customers I serve, charged with the responsibility to help each find gaps and new opportunities in their businesses that will help each one grow, differentiate themselves and drive sales. Some call it “soft sell”, it’s just the way I approach people.”
When not planning marketing campaigns with a produce manager or scouting out the competition, Adam has many interests that keep his life active and interesting. Firstly, he admits that his world revolves around his fiancé Anais and 3-year-old son, Noah, pictured with dad on his first field trip. The couple were supposed to tie the knot this summer before Covid-19 pandemic postponed those plans. Adam’s third love is music – playing it [guitar], listening to all kinds and especially attending live concerts. So, Adam has started a post-pandemic bucket list for when he can hear live music again – first, it’s wedding bells of course and then, if he could wish it, front row at a Metallica concert. Adam also says he enjoys cooking, golf, hiking and reading horror fiction novels. When asked if he could invite one famous person to share his mom’s stew with, Adam’s answer was immediate:
“Without a doubt, Jim Carrey. I’ve probably seen Dumb and Dumber, The Mask and Liar Liar fifty times…each! He is the most talented actor I’ve ever seen. Though I’m not sure how much I would get to eat with all the laughing at the table.” Hey, whatever you guys don’t eat, save the leftovers for me!
3 cups Hatch pepper; roasted, peeled, diced medium (about 10 whole peppers)
2 pounds pork tenderloin (Pork Butt or Beef shoulder also good options)
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup white flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 Perfect Sweet Onions, chopped
1-24 oz. bag Melissa’s Baby Dutch® Potatoes; washed, halved
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
Roast the peppers over an open flame, using a pair of tongs for safety. Then peel, clean, medium dice and set aside.
Cut the tenderloin into bite-sized chunks, season with salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour. Heat the olive oil over a medium flame and brown the tenderloin pieces on all sides – about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pork from the skillet, place in a large stewing or crock pot.
Using the same skillet, sauté the onions in the pork juices until translucent, then add to the pot of tenderloin pieces.
Last, add in the potatoes, Hatch peppers, garlic powder and water/cover and simmer. If using a stew pot, cook on low for 1 hour. If using a crock pot, cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6 hours.
Plating: Serve individually in shallow stew plates, garnished with a sprig of cilantro, crusty bread on the side.