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[Flickr: Carlos del Vaca]

I've been lucky enough to visit New Mexico and Texas in late August/early September, when the grocery stores have chile roasters in the parking lots, roasting away their batches of Hatch chiles. What makes the Hatch so special? The fact that it's only available in August and September? Maybe. But I think it's because they're the perfect chile-loving balance of flavor and heat.

The chiles are green and slender, similar in looks to an Anaheim chile. They're named after the town of Hatch, New Mexico, the region where they are grown. Some claim it's the combination of New Mexican soil and climate that makes them taste so unique. Because of their tough skins, roasting them first is a must.

Some grocery stories like Whole Foods get them shipped (I just picked up a batch this morning in New York). Call and ask before you venture to the store though. And once you get some of the precious chiles, here are ways to enjoy them.

15 Ways to Use Hatch Chiles

1. Add it to gravy, like in this über Texas recipe for Chicken-Fried Steak with Hatch Cream Gravy.

2. Two words: chile verde.

3. Chop up and add to mac 'n cheese.

4. Stuff with cheese, beans and rice. Smother with more cheese.

5. Infuse into oil, and spread the Hatch chile love year-round.

6. Bake into chocolate cookies.

7. Purée into pesto.

8. Add into an apple Dutch baby, Homesick Texan style.

9. Use to pep up rice.

10. Sliver, and adorn a cheeseburger.

11. Bake into cornbread.

12. Hatch chile focaccia.

13. Use as a salad dressing for an apple and jicama salad.

14. Green eggs and ham.

15. Combine with pears to make a sorbet.

How do you use your Hatch chiles?

About the author: Andrea Lynn is senior editor for Chile Pepper magazine, where she not only creates a wide range of zesty recipes for readers, but also participates in numerous tastings for hot sauce, salsa, and other spice-laden products (even chocolate!). Her favorite chile? A tie between the mild yet flavorful poblano and the mighty, reliable fire of the serrano.

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