Friday, February 28, 2014

Hash Browns, Hatch Chiles & Eggs

Hash Browns for One, with eggs
I have had a desire to create a "Hatch Chile Sauce" for a long while. This began many years ago, down in Tucson, where one of my sisters resides. Near her house is a park and Tea Garden called Tohono Chul. The park is lovely in the Southwest xeriscape way, showcasing the plants and critters local to the area. The "Tea Garden" or, as I see in the website is now called "Garden Bistro", showcases absolutely fantastic meals, but breakfast is the meal I have enjoyed most often. For years, as I would visit my sister, we would go there and I would order the same meal, every time. It was scrambled eggs, wrapped in corn tortillas, served with a pool of Hatch Chile Sauce and black beans, sour cream and some olives. A Southwest breakfast fit for a king. Everything in that meal caused me raptures. And then, they took it off the menu.

I realize that menus must change periodically. The locals would want something new I assume. But me - I just wished that breakfast was still on the menu. And this is what brings me to this blog. I have been dreaming of that Hatch Chile Sauce ever since. It had a little bit of bite, but was mild, overall. The southwest flavor was the thing that just enchanted me. The last time I was in Tucson, my husband and I drove back from there, via the Grand Canyon, the giant meteor crater (remember "Star Man"?), Hatch, New Mexico, Denver, Aberdeen, SD, and on and on, till we got back to Florida, where we lived at the time. When passing through Hatch, we stopped and I bought a large string of Hatch chilies. I had not really used them; mainly I had them hanging as a decoration. My understanding is that "Hatch Chilies" are just chilies that grow in Hatch, NM, and not any particular variety. They could be hot chilies or mild. The string I have are relatively hot.

A few days ago I wanted some hash browns. My husband will absolutely not eat hash browns if the skins are on the potatoes. Skins are his big, fat no-no. Me - I love the skins, so if I make hash browns for myself, I leave the skins on. I made one little potato-worth of hash browns in a tiny skillet, just for me. I made 2 eggs in the same skillet to set on top of the potatoes and it was my supper. Here is the recipe:

Hash Browns for One

Potato Mixture - In the pan

1 small potato, scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 scallions, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of pepper, optional
1 teaspoon cornstarch

One side cooked - Hash Browns served
Chop the scallions and set aside. Lay out a 2-layer thickness of paper toweling at least a foot long or more. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. With a large-holed grater, grate the little potato onto the paper toweling. Spread the shreds out relatively evenly, roll the paper toweling with the potato inside, then squeeze all along the roll to wring as much moisture from the potato shreds as possible. Unroll the paper toweling, dropping the potato shreds with the scallion. Add the salt, pepper if using, and the cornstarch. With fingers, toss the mixture to combine. Add the olive oil to the hot skillet and drop in the potatoes. Press them gently into an even circle. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 4 minutes. Remove lid and set a spatula under one side of the potato cake. Using the pan's momentum, lift the pan and flip the potato cake with the spatula. Back on the heat, cover and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point the potatoes should be cooked through.

Delightful as my hash browns and eggs were, it got me thinking about that Hatch Chile Sauce again, and I started gazing fondly at my string of Hatch chiles and dreaming of how I could make a chile sauce that would be similar to the one at Tohono Chul. I have a large bag of dried Ancho peppers in my freezer. They are in 2 zip-top bags, as I do not use them often, and just want them as fresh as possible when I do want them. I wondered how many chilies it would require to get the sauce to be similar to the one at TC. Theirs was a relatively smooth sauce, a nice dusky orange in color. I figured there was no way to find out but by trying. This is what I did:

Hatch Ancho Chile Sauce

Makes 1 pint
My Hatch Ancho Chile Sauce

2 hot, dried chilies
1 large dried Ancho chili
Boiling water, for soaking
1 large onion, or 2 small onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, coarse chopped
3 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste (from a tube)
2 - 3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, rough-chopped
1 cup water, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
pinch of dried epazote, optional
pinch of annatto powder, optional
1 tablespoon butter

In a small saucepan, heat some water to boiling. Reduce to lowest heat and add the 3 chilies. Allow them to steep in the water while starting the onions. Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Add in the onions and teaspoon of salt; saute until translucent, stirring periodically. Add the garlic, thyme and tomato paste and stir to combine, cooking until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add in half the water and stir.

Remove the chiles from the hot water. If you want the sauce to be very hot, leave in the seeds and membranes; otherwise, remove stems, seeds and membranes, coarsely chop and add to the skillet. Stir just to combine and pour into a blender or food processor. Process until the sauce is as smooth as you like and return the sauce to the skillet. Stir in the rest of the water, with the half teaspoon salt, vinegar and epazote and annatto, if using. These last may make no appreciable difference. The annato will give more depth of color. The epazote is a very southwest flavor and I have it in my cabinet! Add in the butter and stir until it melts and is well combined. Once cooled, store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Corn Tortillas, Hash Browns for One, Eggs, Hatch Ancho Chile Sauce with a side of black beans, olives and sour cream

The sauce tasted really good, though it has been quite a few years since I last had it at Tohono Chul. This morning I made my Hash Browns for One, set them onto a couple of tortillas, topped that with two eggs, served myself some black beans and topped the eggs with the newly created Hatch Ancho Chile Sauce. It was a meal fit for a Southwest King - or Queen, as the case may be!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.