David Cook, co-owner of Gather Food Studio, has a fun, superefficient way to roast chiles. He uses a Santa Barbara Chile Roaster, which he demonstrated in a “Green Chile” class.
This roaster is not like the huge ones you see in parking lots spewing flames, smoke and the strong aroma of scorched chiles. This is a 30-inch, Teflon-coated, stainless steel roasting drum attached to a stand, with five burners running the length of the stand. The home-friendly rig then is attached to a propane tank.
“I can roast up to 11 pounds of chiles,” Cook said, loading a batch of Pueblo greens into the drum. “It will take about 15 to 20 minutes for them to get deeply charred.”
When I char chiles on a gas burner, I never get them as black as Cook did in his roaster. Getting that charred burn makes a difference in how easily the chiles peel. After they were black all over, he poured them into a metal bowl and covered them with plastic wrap.
“These will steam about 15 minutes or until you can handle them,” he said. “Keep a little bowl of water on the side to dip your fingers in while peeling. Never, ever peel chiles under running water. That washes away the flavor.”
I usually buy a bushel of roasted green chiles from a parking lot purveyor. I dump the plastic bag in my car trunk and let them steam on the way home. Then I peel and package them for freezing. With a home chile roaster, I could roast fewer chiles at a time. They’re much easier to peel, and I think the flavor is truer than when they’ve been frozen and defrosted.
In the class, we prepared several recipes using the chiles Cook had freshly roasted. One of my favorites was a squash recipe, a perfect side dish for fall meals. I have my eye on this one to add to my Thanksgiving menu. Use roasted, peeled unseeded chiles in the recipe that follows. You’ll get even more flavor and spiciness from the green pods with the seeds remaining. But if you’re unsure of your chiles’ heat level, remove the seeds. It’s up to you.
Yes, the roasters are pricey: $239.99 on Amazon. But think of the fun you can have roasting chiles in your backyard. And if that’s not enough, you also can roast corn on the cob in the drum. Visit tinyurl.com/yas2l7tq.