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Taste the flame of the Hatch chile

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Hatch chiles are earthy and garlicky.

This week, out in front of Carlito's Burritos in Henderson, two metal cages are spinning and churning away in the Southern Nevada sun. Outfitted with propane jets, the latticed barrels are filled with tumbling, blistering, and smoking green chiles that have been trucked up 650 miles from Hatch, New Mexico.

With its high desert climate along the Rio Grande — sunny days, crisp nights — Hatch is famed for producing top-notch chiles with a pronounced earthy, garlicky flavor profile. It's the Southwest's spicy equivalent of Napa Valley.

While some Hatch chiles are allowed to ripen and turn red, the lion's share is fire-roasted while still sporting fresh green skins. Once the peppers are charred, they're stuffed steaming-hot into bags and rubbed together. This strips off their tough outer coverings, leaving tender, edible strips behind.
While many local food aficionados make an afternoon out of firing their own Hatch batches, it certainly saves time to let the experts tend to the hearth. With strong ties to the Land of Enchantment, Carlito's brings in tons of chiles every August. A good portion of the haul is roasted for customers by the pound ($4.95 for 1, $8.50 for 2) to take home for family recipes. The rest is incorporated into the restaurant's savory dishes like huevos rancheros, shrimp-stuffed sopapillas, chiles rellenos, chicken tamales, and fry bread-based Navajo tacos. Carlito's is spinning the cages only into early September, so this week is the perfect time to pick up a piquant addition to your Labor Day weekend barbecue.

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