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Creamy, Vegan Fire-Roasted Hatch Green Chili and Corn Soup

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

If you're a chili aficionado, you've no doubt heard of the world-famous Hatch chilies from New Mexico. These amazing, meaty pods have a history that just might surprise you.

The name, Hatch, refers to the growing region. Hatch, New Mexico. Chefs claim that the intense sunlight by day, followed by cool nights in the Mesilla Valley are what gives these chilies their unique flavor.

Here's where it gets interesting. The chili was developed, in the 1960's-70's, at the University of New Mexico by Prof. Roy M. Nakayama. For more than 20 years, Professor Nakayama was a judge at the International Chili Society World Championship Cookoff, and this chili was his passion.

A decade after the chili's development, another player enters - farmer Jim Lytle. Today's chili is referred to as the Big Jim, in his honor. Guinness World Records named the Big Jim the largest green chile, given that it can reach 10 inches long. And its meaty walls made it perfect for chiles rellenos. Used as well in enchiladas and sauces, its flavor came to define New Mexico chile.  

In the 2000's, however, something was wrong. Long-time lovers of the Big Jim knew that their beloved chili was different, and not in a good way. It had somehow lost it's mojo. That's where Paul 'Chileman' Bosland, then director of NMSU’s Chile Pepper Institute, steps into the story. Chili-heads went to him and begged him to give them their chili back. And, over a period of ten years, using 1975 seeds from a cold storage facility at Colorado State University, working closely with farmers, he brought the beloved Big Jim back.

If you live where Hatch chilies can be bought by the box - like I do, here in Reno, Nevada - then be sure to pick up a carton in late August through September. Then, roast your own. Of course, it does help to have, ahem, friends with big-assed, propane fired rotating chili roasters like Jesus Gutierrez, the owner of Mari Chuy's Mexican Kitchen!

Chuy loves to take the chilies out and simply wrap them in a freshly made, warm corn tortilla (made on-site, of course). Oh. My.

He kept a BUNCH for use at the restaurant, and I took a BUNCH of roasted chilies home to chop and freeze for later use.

If you decide to roast your own, like me, then simply cut off the stem ends, and gently scrape out the seeds. Oh, and when you order them from the grocer, make sure you tell them if you want mild, medium or hot. But, after you prepare them - let them cool - and simply package them and toss 'em into the freezer.

For those of you who don't have a freezer full of chilies, you can buy the Young Guns Flame Roasted Hatch Green Chilies in the frozen food section of your local WalMart.

Making a deeply flavorful, thick and creamy Hatch green chili soup is pretty easy with the frozen chilies. Cashews for the rich and thick part. Onions, of course. Granulated onion and garlic powder. Lots of that!

I also use a Hatch green chili powder to up the ante. Buy that from Salty-Savoury-Sweet, The Spice and Tea Shoppe, Reno, Nevada (yes, they do mail order!) Oh, and of course, ground Cumin, Cilantro and lime juice. Finally, there's the corn. I just think that the sweetness of corn is a perfect counterpoint to the heat.

I thaw the bag of chilies in the microwave, and drain off the 'juice'. I'm going to use this - rather than oil - to wet sauté my onions. If you've been looking at any of my recipes, you'll have noticed that I follow the Forks Over Knives no-added-oil way of cooking. I didn't believe that I could do at first, but having completed the Rouxbe-Forks Over Knives Plant-based ultimate culinary course, I'm a believer now! It really does work, and delivers flavors that are more clear and nuanced. Oil just gets in the way!

Hold back about a cup each of the chilies and corn - you'll add them back into the soup after you've pureed the rest of the ingredients to a fare-thee-well in the high-speed blender. Adding this back in at the end gives the soup a nice texture.

Sauté your onions - oil-free, of course! - only adding a bit of water or broth as needed to keep them from sticking. Cook them just a few minutes until they're translucent.

When the onions are done, add in the chilies, corn, cilantro, cashews and all the spices (Cumin, Hatch Green Chili Powder, Onion and Garlic). Cook this for another few minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables and cashews in batches to a regular countertop blender, or if you have a high-speed blender (like a Vitamix) you can do it all in one batch. Add the plant milk and broth. BLEND like you mean it - until it's creamy smooth. Add in the fresh lime juice. Pulse. Taste. Adjust flavors and seasonings.

This is were I add the Cholula Green Pepper Hot Sauce. Pulse. Taste. Add some sugar to balance things. More fresh lime juice if you like. Salt, if needed.

Pour the pureed soup into a pot, stir in the reserved green chilies and corn. I love corn, so actually, I grabbed another handful from the bag in the freezer and tossed it in. Gently - and I mean don't let this boil - heat the soup through to 'cook' the chilies and corn you tossed in at the end.

You might want to have some fresh Cilantro chopped up to garnish the soup for serving.

Hey, if you like or make this dish, would you mind posting the recipe to Yummly? I'd really appreciate that. The Yummly icon is on the right side of this webpage. Oh, and saving to Pinterest would also be great! Each photo should have a Pinterest icon in the upper left corner! Thanks!

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