A friend in Los Angeles called me about 2 weeks ago and told me that the Albertson's markets there were selling New Mexico green chiles and roasting them at no extra charge. He thought I might want to check with the Albertson's in my area.
I got on the net, emailed the head office, and asked them if the same service was being offered here.
Well, since I live in West Chula Vista (no that isn't part of Baja), I thought the chances might be pretty good. They told me that, yes, on Saturday and Sunday, September 3 & 4, Albertson's on Third Avenue would be roasting chiles from 8 am to noon and would have 400 ,30 pound bags each day.
Having lived in New Mexico in my formative years and become thoroughly addicted to the atomic chiles grown there, I was up for it. Any of us from NM try to get fresh chiles every year, any way we can..friends usually visit in August (harvest) and bring them back but sometimes this is imposing.
So, ok. I get to the market at 7:15 am and there are 100 people already in line, shopping carts filled
with up to 5 gunny sacks of chiles. I go inside, grab 3 bags from the produce dept.,pay and go out to join the line up.Wow, I could smell it thru the bag! $21.95 for 30 pounds...that is only 75 cents a pound. Unheard of here. And roasted at no extra charge...bargain!
This particular store was the only one in San Diego offering this service. People came from as far as Dulzura, Carlsbad and Oceanside. Considering the price of gas,these were some serious chile heads. Chile lovers, cookers, and addicts, many from NM, some from Arizona, Colorado and nearly 90% hispanic..the few anglos had either lived in or visited NM and KNOW what it's all about. This became a real event. We all exchanged stories of NM and our chile experiences and of course recipe favorites. You know those old ladies (and some men) could really cook up some chile verde!
It took me 2 1/2 hours to get thru the line but it was
in no way an ordeal. One saving grace..the sun didn't come out til about 11:00 am and the weather was very cooperative. The manager was on the roof taking pictures,passing traffic slowed down, some people actually got out and asked us what was going on, the store had run out of shopping carts, one of the radio stations was there playing music and everybody was happy! Some of the old men showed off their macho by chomping on the raw chiles and passing their judgment on them..."oh, not too hot", while rivulets of sweat and tears rolled down their cheeks. Oh sure. The sacks were all labeled "Extra Hot" but I found them to be medium hot compared to some I have tasted. All long green, fairly uniform in size, shiny and not shriveled, gorgeous!
Two propane driven hoppers going continually. You arrive at the hopper, one guy opens your sack, into the hopper he dumps your chiles, approximately 3-4 minutes and the're done. Another guy inserts a trash bag into a dairy crate and they pour out what looks like green and black, slippery fishes into the bag. Then that bag is inserted back into the gunny sack. Next! These guys were cookin' and roastin'. Hot stuff.
So, I get home with 90 pounds of roasted chiles and set up shop in my driveway. Me and my rubber gloves got to work. I laid them (careful not to grab and tear the meat) into quart size and snack size zippered freezer bags. I had to do this before they sweat too long and got mushy. The chiles are frozen with the skins on. They are easy to peel when they are defrosted. I filled my freezer, left some out for dinner, gave some to the neighbors, shared some with a friend and delivered 60 pounds to a friend in Rancho Bernardo...40 miles away.
I'm happy. I'll be able to cook lots of pork, rellenos, green chile stew, pizza, paninis, burros, green sauce or with garlic and oil as a side dish. Hope it lasts me awhile.