Found: Hatch chiles. Right here in St. Louis, Lucky's Market is selling them—and indeed, roasting them, producing that aroma that characterizes early autumn in New Mexico. Both the Rock Hill and Ellsville locations are hosting a Hatch Green Chile fest this Saturday, September 5, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be tasting, roasting, and recipes, among other attractions.
Hatch chiles aren't a specific variety of chile pepper. Rather, they're chiles grown in the Hatch Valley of the Rio Grande River in southern New Mexico, making them akin to Burgundy or Bordeaux, where various grapes are grown to produce the wines categorized by the geographic names.
Lucky's will offer them both fresh (for $1.99 per pound) and roasted (for $2.99 per pound). The roasting is done in a large iron roaster in front of the store (pictured at right). The heat can vary, though medium-hot seems to be the variety that's most widely available nationwide. (It's the next step up from mild on a four-level scale.)
Roasted chiles freeze well, so it's easy to slip them into small plastic bags, perhaps even one or two chiles each, and keep them in a larger bag. And they're not just for chiles relleno. Consider trying them on a hamburger or an egg-and-cheese sandwich, chopped into a quiche or stirred into cornbread batter. I even know someone who puts them in peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, for an extra kick of sweet, salty, and hot. If you're looking for more ideas, here's a place to start.
Ellisville: 15830 Fountain Plaza, 636-220-1223
Rock Hill: 9530 Manchester, 314-942-8193