Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

A Box of Fire

Hatch Chiles

I could smell it as soon as I opened the car door in the Central Market parking lot. There is nothing quite like the aroma of fresh chiles roasting in the late summer heat. I love August in Austin for the twin green chile festivals hosted by Central Market and Chuy’s, and this celebration of nature’s most perfect fruit is now upon us.

The chiles are shipped in fresh from the chile harvest in Hatch, New Mexico and roasted on site. Central Market sells them by the pound, and Chuy’s creates a special Green Chile Festival menu that runs from mid-August to mid-September.

Each year, I buy several pounds of chiles from CM to freeze and use throughout the year. Use? Hah! I usually just eat them straight with a bit of salt or wrapped in a tortilla when I’m feeling industrious. Then we eat at Chuy’s at least once a week until we’ve tried all the green chile specials and gone back for seconds of our favorites. So far, nothing has topped the green chile tortilla soup of 1996 or the Charlie Brown chicken (crusted with pumpkin seeds) of 2003.

So, yesterday it began. While selecting my bags of roasted chiles, the clerk informed me that for $22 I could get a whole case, roasted while I waited and would save a ton of money and get more chiles. How could I refuse?

Now, my freezer is full of small baggies of chiles and all day I ate chiles. Next week, Chuy’s starts up, and I wonder what delights they’ll have cooked up for us this year.

I’ll keep you posted.

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