Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hatch Chile Chicken Salad

It's Hatch chile pepper time in the Southwest. If you aren't familiar with what that means, don't worry, I wasn't either until I moved to Dallas four years ago. Hatch chiles are a specific type of green chile grown in Hatch, New Mexico, and distributed to grocers nationwide in late August every year. The Hatch pepper is widely regarded as the cream of the chile pepper crop. It is similar in shape to the Anaheim pepper, but with a darker color, sometimes with an orange tint and a bigger bite.
Photo credit: Houston Chronicle
Since these green gems are only available once a year, devotees will buy them by the case, roast them and freeze them for later use. The beauty of freezing hatch peppers is that they only get hotter the longer you wait to use them! I havn't quite reached the level of buying hatch peppers by the case, but I definitely find myself called to Central Market every time I smell them roasting the peppers out front.

So, as usual, this week I purchased two containers of Hatch and was determined to create my own recipes that would feature my favorite pepper. Knowing that Robert and I would be hitting the road to drive to San Marcos to spend the long weekend with my parents, I decided that one recipe would need to be chicken salad.

What does chicken salad have to do with our road trip? Well, Robert and I have a tradition that whenever we are on a drive that will last through a meal, we like to pack food so that we aren't forced to stop and eat fast food along the way. We have specific criteria for what food we pack: it must be relatively healthy (aka not fried) and it must be easily consumed by the driver without impacting their ability to focus on the road. Chicken salad has been that solution!

Typically we purchase a tub of chicken salad from our favorite spot in Dallas, along with a sleeve of crackers and while we're driving I will put a spoonful of salad on a cracker and hand it to Robert to eat. This time we used my Hatch Chicken Salad instead for a delightful treat! I used my Orange Cranberry Chicken Salad recipe as a jumping off point and incorporated ingredients I thought would both complement and highlight the flavor of the pepper. Robert and I both agree, this chicken salad is unlike any we've ever tasted before! It's fresh and light tasting and every now and then has a slight kick from a stray seed. We highly recommend it!

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Hatch Chile Chicken Salad

2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/2 cup chopped roasted hatch peppers

In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, vinegar and lime juice.

 Whisk to combine.
In a larger bowl combine the chicken, shallots, peppers and cilantro.

 Pour in the mayo mixtures and stir to fully combine.
Attempt to store in a container until ready for your road trip only to find your husband sneaking a bite!
Enjoy with crackers, fruit and nuts for a light meal on a hot summer day.

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