Have you had your Padrons today?
Not that long ago, the Padron chile was a delicacy found primarily at tapas bars and restaurants in Spain. Now the Padron and its cousin, the shishito, are everywhere, and we have an obligation to do our part, which is to enjoy them.
From sometime in June or July, when they first appear at farmers markets and on restaurant menus, until late October or November, they are one of the simplest and most delicious appetizers possible.
Padrons are really easy to prepare at home. All you do is fry them in a bit of olive oil, tip them onto a plate and add a little coarse salt. Simple embellishments like a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a pool of aioli or a mound of burrata gussies up the chiles deliciously, but it's gilding the lily, welcome but not essential.
All manner of chiles are at our farmers markets right now, from sweet colorful bells to unfamiliar varieties like the carrot chiles that Triple T Farms has. They are said to be great with fish, but I haven't tried them yet. I've been too busy enjoying Padrons.
There are fresh cayennes, haba?ros, gypsies, Anaheims and many other less familiar varieties. Poblanos, a longtime favorite, are beautiful this year, big, firm and deeply colored.
The Hatch chile is one of the newest darlings of the foodie set, and I've been reading about it all over the place. It's an Anaheim chile grown near Hatch, New Mexico, hence the name. But it's the same chile grown through New Mexico, although it is typically much hotter than those grown in California soil.
This year, locally grown jalape?s and serranos are not showing a lot of heat, though their flavors are excellent. Soon, once these and a few other varieties are fully red ripe, they will be smoked, dried and ground for chipotle powder and other similar products, which will get us through winter and spring with spicy deliciousness. Once difficult to come by, chipotle powder is now available from several local producers. You'll read about it here when the 2013 batch is ready.
For now, it is time to celebrate fresh chiles, get ready for Halloween pozole and, if you're so inclined, freeze some roasted chiles for soups and stews until the season begins again next year.
For years, I've been searching for the perfect green chile sauce, one without tomatillos and cumin, which most have. It needs to have the exact right blend of flavors and the proper texture, neither too thin nor too thick. This one is the closest I have come in my own kitchen, and I'm currently making my third batch in as many weeks. I've enjoyed it simply, on top of steamed rice; as a condiment with pork, chorizo, steak and shrimp tacos; as a sauce for cheese enchiladas and queso fundido; and with Mexican-style beans and rice. It is an excellent all purpose sauce.
<b>Poblano, Serrano and Onion Sauce</b>
<em>Makes about 1 quart</em>
8 to 10 poblanos, seared, peeled and seeded (see Note below)
1 to 5 green serranos or jalape?s, seared, peeled and seeded (see Note below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced