Locally Made: Bill Hutchison Solves the New Mexico Pepper Debate
The question refers to the New Mexico Chile, a pepper with a long and somewhat heated history in the state. In Albuquerque, people say that the early picked green peppers are the best, while a ways north in Santa Fe, residents swear by the sweetness of the late- picked red.
While traveling on business as a maintenance contractor for State Farm Insurance, Hutchison fell for the mouth-watering subtleties of the New Mexico chile pepper. After sampling chile dishes all across New Mexico, from roadside gas station booths to well known favorites like Albuquerque's Sadies, Hutchison brought the peppers back to Phoenix where he began experimenting with the chile in his own recipes.
As for the question that causes such debate among our neighbors in New Mexico? Hutchison is a green man.
Hutchison insists that his salsa have the ideal texture, not too chunky or watered down. Armed with his new-found affinity for roasted New Mexico greens, he began tinkering with salsa recipes and the results landed him a third place award at the Southwest Salsa Challenge in 2006.
Hutchison's salsa recipe is pretty simple. He starts with a tomato base, and adds fresh cilantro, garlic, green onions, a little salt, a mixture of fresh jalapeno, serrano, and habanera peppers and of course, the roasted New Mexico peppers. According to Hutchison, the peppers often differ in flavor, depending on sun exposure, water, and soil conditions.
This is why his small batch salsa is so delicious. Hutchison can adjust each batch based on the fiery and unpredictable personality of the peppers. But he's used to dealing with personalities; Hutchison prepares his salsa in the industrial kitchen space at the American Legion #105, where he occasionally helps out with the meal service.
When asked about the perks and perils of working around the Legion regulars, Hutchison laughs, "I've got a bar full of people who usually don't trust anything they can't eat with a knife and fork."
You can find Bill Hutchison selling his award-winning salsa, relleno pies, and green chile burritos to a fork-free crowd on Saturday mornings at Road Runner farmer's market and on Sunday at Awatukee farmer's market.