How to Roast Chiles at Home-Southwest Cooking Basics

by Sandy on February 7, 2011

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We roast a lot of chiles around here. Red, green, yellow, orange… we roast them all.  They are not just for Mexican food, you can throw them on top of a pizza or mix them into your Mac and Cheese, potato dishes, frittatas, the list is endless.

Roasting fresh chiles for your recipes is well worth the effort. You can really taste the chile itself… without the briny, vinegar flavor of canned chiles.

And the aroma… amazing!  There’s just no way to describe it.

The traditional way to roast a chile is over an open flame or in an open flame.  The flame quickly blisters the skin without cooking the chile or changing the fresh and unique flavor of the chile.  Any open flame will do.  A gas stove or a barbeque work well.  We even used a kitchen torch in culinary school  in order to keep that fresh chile flavor.

But, let’s face it, an open flame is not always around.  That’s o.k.  Any roasted chile is a good chile.  That’s my motto!

I’ve listed several of the ways to roast chiles… over a flame, in an oven, just a few or a bunch.  You should find a way that fits your cooking style.

Choosing your Chile

choosing a chile to roast
The first thing to do is choose your chile. No matter what variety you choose, it should be as straight as possible without blemishes or deep wrinkles.

How to Roast Chiles over a flame

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Hold the chile over an open flame until the skin blisters.  It is not necessary to char the skin, as long as it blisters. If you are lucky enough to have a gas stove, you can set the chile directly on the burner.  I bought a small, portable gas burner at an asian market to use for roasting chiles.  That way, I can take it outdoors.  You can purchase a small grate to go over you burner if you have an electric stove.  It is nice, but not necessary.  I just use tongs.

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Turn the chile in the flame until it blisters on all sides.  O. K.!  So, I got a little carried away with this one.  They don’t need to be this dark or charred.

If you look closely, you can see the skin is already pulling away from the chile.

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Don’t forget the tops.  But, be careful not to burn the stem if you want to use the whole chile for a dish like Chiles en Nogada or Navajo Tacos, You’ll want the stem to look pretty.

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Quickly put the chile in a bowl and cover immediately with plastic wrap.  The steam from the chile will help separate the skin and make it easier to peel. Plastic bags work well for this, also.

Peel the skin away from the chile.  Try not to run the chile under water.  It washes away some of the flavor you are trying so hard to keep.

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If you are using the whole chile for your dish, cut down one side with a sharp knife.  Carefully remove the seeds and ribs.  Trim the ball of seeds away with out the breaking the stem.

If you want to dice your chile or cut it into strips, just remove the top and cut the chile down one side.  Remove the seeds and ribs of the chile and you are ready to go.

Roast extra Chiles to freeze

Don’t forget to roast extra chiles.  They freeze well and you will have roasted chiles waiting for you to use in your next dish or hamburger, or grilled cheese sandwich, or quesadilla, or…

How to Roast Chiles in an Oven

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After choosing your chile, give them rinse and spread them on a baking sheet to dry.  Pre-heat the oven on broil. When the chiles are dry, put the sheet pan in the oven on highest rack.  The chiles should be as close to the heating element as possible without actually touching it.  You want to simulate the open flame and blister the chile quickly, not cook it. The closer you can get to the heat, the quicker the skin will blister.
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Keep a close eye on your chiles and turn them often to blister the chiles on all sides. If the broiler is pre-heated, it should only take 4 minutes on the first side. Turn the chiles and let roast 3 minutes or less on the second side. You may not need to roast all sides of the chile, they may blister up on their own.
Roasted Chiles that are blistered on all sides

The chiles do not need to be charred.  The steam from the high heat will separate the skin from the chile.  Your chile is done if it starts looking “wrinkly.”
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When the chiles are blistered on all sides, remove them from the oven and put directly into a bowl.  Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  The steam will help separate the skin from the chile and make them easer to peel.

If you have a large number of chiles, the combined heat will continue to cook the chiles so, put the bowl directly into the refrigerator.  Better yet, chill the bowl before you roast the chiles. If you have room in your refrigerator, spread the chiles on a flat baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.  They will not have as much “carry over cooking.”

As soon as  the chiles are cool enough to handle, they are ready to go.

Peel and prepare the chiles as shown above.

Freezing Roasted Chiles

Chiles freeze well.  Be sure to roast extra chiles to have on hand for recipes or burgers or just about anything you can think of.

I like to freeze chiles on a sheet pan first so that they freeze separately.  I put them in a zip bag after they are frozen.  That way, they don’t freeze into a giant chile ice cube and I can take them out one or two at a time.

Any chile can be frozen.  However, I prefer not to freeze chiles that are to be used as the star of the dish such as chile rellenos.  I like to use chiles that have just been freshly roasted for these dishes to keep that “al dente” texture.

Roasted chiles are an easy way to add a little zing to your regular dishes.  They are not always hot, it depends on the variety of chile you choose.  If you are looking for a mild chile, try the poblano.  Poblanos are often referred to as a “beginner” chile.

Here are a few ways to add a Southwest flair to your everyday dishes:

Corn and Cheese Pudding with Green Chiles-by the Cooking Photographer

Spicy Kale Salad with Tomatoes and Chiles-by Tasty Eats at Home

Robert McGrath’s Green Chile Mac and Cheese-redone by Food People Want

Green Chile Potato Gratin-by Everyday Southwest

-posted by Sandy

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