The Local Palate caught up with John Lewis of Charleston’s Lewis Barbecue and Juan Luis to discuss the upcoming Lewis Chile Roast and his long history with the Hatch green chiles he’ll be serving up. The chile roast will take place on September 23 at Lewis Barbecue.
What’s distinctive about the hatch green chile?
It’s a long green chile, developed in New Mexico from more traditional chiles using selective breeding. Anaheim chilies that you find in the supermarket were created for California market—they’re much less spicy and more bland.
What does the flavor of this particular chile pair best with?
At the chile roasting event, we’ll have recipe cards available for ideas of what you can do with them. Any dish you like making, you can add green chile and it makes it better.
How did the hatch chile end up on your radar and what about it inspired you to introduce it in your cuisine in Charleston?
Same thing with barbecue – something that I love that wasn’t here already. It’s really my comfort food. Love chiles rellenos, but any Mexican food in the region where I grew up is based around the red and green chiles from there. Red chiles are the same as the green but they ripen before drying, the same as bell pepper. The red are a little sweeter, the green a little grassier. New Mexican food out there isn’t red from tomatoes, it’s from chiles. Green sauces aren’t based in tomatillo, based on fire roasted green chiles. It’s different from rest of Mexican food.
What are you planning for your green chile event?
We’ll have a huge chile roaster and two palettes of green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico. We’ll be selling roasted chiles, everyone can come and stock up their freezer for the year like back where I grew up. That’s why the red chile is dried, it preserves it. Before refrigeration and freezers, green chiles were a treat because the growing season is so short. Now, you can roast and freeze them to enjoy all year.
We’ll also be sampling dishes made with green chiles. Revelry Brewing Co. is making a green chile Mexican lager, we’ll have green chile cocktails, live music, and we’ll be roasting chiles all day. You can buy them roasted by the pound, by the five pounds, or by the case—two cases is what I need for my own personal use in a year.
To read more about Lewis’ love of chiles and his recent trip to New Mexico,