Early last week, I was doing some routine grocery shopping at Central Market when I saw a sign about a hatch chile pepper recipe contest. My first inclination was to tell Wes since he has become famous in our group for his spicy sliders. I thought the hatch chiles would be a perfect addition to those. But, I also did a little thinking and decided I would try and come up with an entry. After a little thought about some of my favorite flavors, I came up with an idea for hatch chile and goat cheese risotto. A bit of a flavor fusion, combining something that is typically reserved for an Italian meal with all the heat that comes along with hatch chile peppers. Adding goat cheese to this dish seemed perfect, helping balance the heat with a bit of cream and subtle tang. Yes, I just wrote subtle tang. Describing the food I create has never been my strong suit…
I prepared my recipe for the first time last week and Wes really seemed to like it. Since I got the thumbs up from him, I decided to write it down and submit it online.
Late last week, I got an email from the Central Market team notifying me that my recipe had been chosen as a finalist. I was quite shocked, but assumed only a few recipes had been entered, giving me the opportunity to compete. I was instructed to prepare my dish for judges and to bring it to the Dallas Central Market on Sunday. Luckily, I did not have to prepare the meal in front of anyone, which would have made me entirely too nervous.
As a sidenote, Wes and I were at a wedding in Houston this weekend. Our plan was to get back to Dallas early enough so I wouldn’t have to rush, but somehow that didn’t happen. We arrived in Dallas at 2, and I had to have my food prepared, plated and ready to go at Central Market by 3.
Wes was a fantastic helper, stirring one bowl of Risotto for me, while I prepared the other. I wanted to have two types for the competition, one with roasted hatch chiles and one with raw, slightly sauteed hatch chiles. We somehow got everything chopped, stirred and packed within 40 minutes and were off.
I arrived at Central Market to find the food table already set up and the judges in their seats. But I did get there early enough to hear that there had been over 300 (!!!!) entries in this competition, and that they had narrowed it down to 8 finalists. Honestly, I was completely floored that I was selected to be a part of the group. The other contestants had prepared things like Hatch Chile Key Lime Pie, Hatch Chile and Watermelon Gazpacho, Hatch Chile Mole, Hatch Chile Creme Brulee, Hatch Chile Fritters, and quite a few other interesting dishes.
After a small speech about our dishes, the judges tasted them all and within a few minutes the decision on the winner was made. The grand prize winner was too receive $100 Central Market gift card, a huge Central Market gift basket filled with awesome items, and…. 75 pounds of hatch chiles peppers. Yes, that’s right, 75 pounds.
Unfortunately my little Risotto dish did not win. The grand prize was awarded to the Hatch Chile Key Lime Pie. It looked amazing and had some serious thought put into it. Although I’m sad I did not win the gift basket or gift card, I have to admit I am relieved I don’t have to figure out what to do with 75 pounds of peppers. My indigestion is also glad I do not have to figure out what to do with the peppers.
Since it was a food contest, I was slightly disappointed that the judges did not offer their thoughts on each of the dishes. Most people had spent more than thirty minutes preparing their dish and probably would of liked some constructive criticism. But, as I was packing up my dish, one of the judges approached me. She said the Risotto was absolutely delicious, a clear second place finish, and that she was more than mildly disappointed when they took her not finished plate away from her. She also mentioned that she couldn’t wait to have the recipe. I was absolutely tickled. Of course it would have been amazing to be first, but to be second out of over three hundred people when you assumed only ten had entered is also pretty amazing.
And your reward for still reading…. the recipe!! It will be posted on the Central Market website sometime, but I wanted to share it here first.
Hatch Chile and Goat Cheese Risotto
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 white onion chopped
3 hatch chile peppers (2 mild, one hot), seeded and chopped/food processed
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup risotto rice
3 cups chicken stock
3 – 4 ounces goat cheese
1 tbsp half & half
S&P to taste
In a large saucepan over medium heat, combite butter and olive oil. Once butter is melted, add onion, peppers, and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add risotto rice, stir and saute for about two minutes.
Now, time for the arm workout.
Add in one cup of chicken stock. Continue stirring until it is absorbed. Repeat this process, adding one cup at a time, until the risotto is a creamy smooth texture, with no bite to it. Once the liquid is all absorbed, turn heat to low. This process can take up to 30 minutes.
Stir in goat cheese and half & half. Add S&P to taste.
Serve! I had green onions, additional goat cheese, and hatch peppers on the side so the judges could sprinkle on a little more if desired.
This version will yield a slightly spicier risotto. If you would like to tone down the heat, but also add a deeper pepper flavor, I highly recommend using roasted hatch peppers instead of raw. I prepared each for the contest and got equally rave reviews.
A big, big thank you to Central Market for choosing my recipe. I had a great time and am already thinking of some ideas for next year!