Some of you, no doubt, swim in deep chile waters, your comfort with peppers intimate and profound. My chile know-how is more like a wading pool: I tend to play it pretty safe.
At heart, though, I'm a curious cook, so when my contact at Melissa's Produce offered me a box of Hatch chiles to play with, I accepted. (Disclosure: They were free. I've known the Melissa's folks for years.)
Hatch chiles are native to Hatch, New Mexico. Though their heat can vary, you can always slice out the veins and seeds to mute their impact.
I blistered, skinned, and pureed them with grilled onion and roasted garlic, then spooned them over creamy labneh. Dip... done.
Recipe for Hatch Chile Labneh
With temperate heat from Hatch chiles and a full head of roasted garlic, this smooth, creamy dip has both sweet and spicy notes that play nicely against labneh. If you'd like to smoke the chiles, add a handful of soaked and drained wood chips to your grill's smoker box (or a foil pack) just before setting the chiles on the grill.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 medium head garlic, left intact
5 Hatch chiles
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Labneh or salted Greek yogurt, for serving
Cilantro, for garnish
Preheat a grill for direct and indirect cooking over high heat. Scrape the grates clean.
Coat the onion quarters lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Slice off the top quarter of the garlic head, exposing the cloves. Drizzle with a touch of oil, season lightly with salt, and wrap in foil.
Lay the chiles and onion on the grill over direct heat. Tuck the garlic on the coolest part of the grill. Blister the chiles until uniformly blackened, about 10 minutes total, turning occasionally. Char the onion as well, but move it to the indirect side of the grill once you get nice grill marks on both sides. Don't obliterate it. Let the garlic cook gently until thoroughly softened when you squeeze the foil-pack with tongs, about 1 hour.
While the garlic and onion finish cooking (take the onion off when it's tender), set the chiles in a covered bowl so the skins steam for 10 minutes. Slip off the skins, cut off the stem, and remove the seedpod, if desired, to mute the heat.
Once the garlic has finished cooking and is cool enough to handle, carefully squeeze the cloves from their skins. Transfer to a small food processor with the chiles, onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and the lime juice. Puree until smooth. Correct the seasonings, if desired.
To serve: Spoon the Hatch chile puree over labneh or salted Greek yogurt, garnish with cilantro, and serve with tortilla chips.
Words, recipe, photograph © Cheryl Sternman Rule