Hatch Chile Season is Here! Spicy Cheesy Hatch Chile Polenta Fries Recipe

Some of the ingredients and products in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

One of my favorite foods in the world is back in season, hatch chiles! Ever since my first experience with hatch chiles in 2015, I have been in love with these fabulous chiles! Capsicum annuum, commonly known as hatch chile, green chile, red chile, and Anaheim pepper, are grown in New Mexico. The Hatch Chile is only grown in the Hatch Valley and the season only lasts for a few weeks in late summer. The intense sunlight and cool nights in this region give this pepper a unique flavor that I crave. If you have ever been to a hatch chile roasting, the aroma that comes from these roasters is intoxicating to the senses. This is also why you may see people buying cases at a time keep in the freezer in order to have them at their fingertips year-round. Hatch chiles are available in mild, medium, hot, and extra hot.

Here is a video from last year’s roasting at Bristol Farms in Woodland Hills, CA. Not only do they have hatch chile roastings but they offer different hatch chile items inside the store from Melissa’s Produce products to deli case items like guacamole, salsa, and sandwiches to bakery items like cornbread and chocolate chips cookies.

Here are dates/locations of roasting happening in SoCal (click here for the full nationwide listing):

Saturday, August 24, 2019
  • Gelson's, 4520 Van Nuys Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, (818) 377-4140, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Gelson's, 3305 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, (805) 687-5810, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Gelson's, 635 Foothill Blvd, La CaƱada Flintridge, CA 91011, (818) 790-0563, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Gelson's, 36101 Bob Hope Dr, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270, (760) 770-0010, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Northgate, 2633 Santa Ana St, Southgate, CA 90280, (323) 277-3000, 7:00am - 2:00pm
  • Northgate, 4700 Inglewood Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230, (310) 390-9639, 7:00am - 2:00pm
Sunday, August 25, 2019
  • Sprouts, 878 Eastlake Pkwy, Chula Vista, CA 91914, (619) 421-2099, 9:00am - 2:00pm

Saturday, August 31, 2019
  • Bristol Farms, 606 Fair Oaks Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030
  • Bristol Farms, 810 Avocado Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92660
  • Bristol Farms, 18421 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda, CA
  • Gelson's, 24 Monarch Bay Plaza, Dana Point, CA 92629, (949) 488-8147, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Gelson's, 2725 Hyperion Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027, (323) 660-0387, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Gelson's, 2707 Via, De La Valle Pl, Del Mar, CA 92014, (858) 481-9300, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Gelson's, 1736 E Avenida De Los Arboles, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362, (805) 493-4301, 11:00am - 3:00pm
  • Northgate, 11660 E Firestone Blvd, Norwalk, CA 90650, (562) 863-8203, 7:00am - 2:00pm
  • Northgate, 2030 E Lincoln Ave, Anaheim, CA 92806, (714) 507-7640, 7:00am - 2:00pm
Saturday, September 7, 2019
  • Bristol Farms, 8510 Genesee Ave, San Diego, CA 92122
  • Lazy Acres, 2510 Pacific Coast Hwy, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
  • Lazy Acres, 422 West Washington St., San Diego, CA 92103
  • Northgate, 1305 W Whittier Blvd, La Habra, CA 90631, (562) 691-8032, 7:00am - 2:00pm
  • Northgate, 1150 E Vista Way, Vista, CA 92084, (760) 724-4900, 7:00am - 2:00pm
  • Zapien's Salsa Grill, 6702 Rosemead Blvd, Pico Rivera, Ca 90660, (562) 942-7072, 8:00am - 3:00pm
In honor this year’s harvest, I developed a recipe that focuses on the hot hatch chile. It’s spicy yet still imparts the craveable hatch chile flavor. Who doesn’t love cheese sauce?! I created a quick cheese sauce spiced up with hot hatch chile luxuriously flowing over crispy hatch chile polenta fries. WARNING - this dish is addictive so you might want to make more if you’re planning to share!

Spicy Cheesy Hatch Chile Polenta Fries by OC Food Diva
Serves 1-2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

½ gallon peanut oil for deep fryer
¼ cup white wine
1 hot hatch chile, stemmed, deveined, minced
1 tsp cornstarch
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped

  1. Preheat deep fryer to 375°F.
  2. Cut ends off polenta package and slide out polenta. Cut the cylinder in half and cut into ¼” matchstick “fries”. Set aside until deep fryer comes to temperature.
  3. Deep fry fries for 5-7 minutes (depending on how crispy you like your fries). Remove from fryer and drain on paper towel.
  4. In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine white wine, hatch chile, and cornstarch. Once it comes to a boil, add cheddar cheese. Stir constantly until velvety texture achieved, 2-3 minutes.
  5. Place fries on plate and pour cheese sauce over fries. Garnish with cilantro and ground hatch chile.

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2018 World Chicken Championship – Top 10 Round + Recipe

Some of the ingredients and products in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce, Springer Mountain Farms, Bolner’s Fiesta Brand, Lipton Iced Tea, Red Gold Tomatoes, and Happy Chef but the opinions expressed here are my own.

I woke up excited and nervous. I made it into the World Chicken Championship Top 10! Since our signature dish for the opening round was also our infused dish for the Top 10, we went over our game plan. The most important thing was to watch that sauce on the stovetop. And since we needed to feed 10 judges instead of 5, we decided to double the marinade and sauce. We knew the leftovers could go to the volunteers and VIPs.

Our infused ingredient was Lipton Tea. Per the rules: “The required, infused ingredient at the World Chicken Championship will be Lipton Tea. Competitors will be given a choice between the following two Lipton Tea with a Splash of Juice flavors – Berry or Tropical. Competitors will be required to create a chicken dish using whatever recipe they can dream up but it has to feature one of these two Lipton Tea flavors! How those decisions are executed is solely at the cook’s discretion. Competitors will also be required to use, and will be provided, their choice of the following Springer Mountain Farms chicken products: Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs; wings; drumsticks; boneless chicken breast.”

Since we were the first round of competitors in kitchen arena for the day, you could have cut the tension in the air with a knife. Once the clock started, it was heads down and time to cook our Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch infused with Lipton Tropical Iced Tea. We had 1 hour and 30 minutes to prepare, cook, plate, and walk our entry over to the turn-in table. My dad, the Chicken Master, started breaking down the chicken thighs. 

Credit: World Food Championships
Lynn started the marinade. I started on the sticky rice and macaroni. Plate lunch is not complete without sticky rice and mac salad!

At the 30-minute mark, we had the chicken marinating, sauce thickening, rice was almost done, and starting on the meson plas for the mac salad.

Credit: World Food Championships
At the 45-minute mark, my dad started skewering the chicken, Lynn was watching the sauce like a hawk so it reduced down perfectly, mac salad was chilling, and I started working the platter presentation. You don’t realize how much time it takes to go through your produce to find the perfect pieces – I picked through orchids and found the best parts of the banana leaves to use on the plates.

At the 1-hour mark, my dad was ready to grill, the sauce reduced perfectly, and everything seemed fine. This is when the time warp happens and stuff beyond your control starts. Our grill wasn’t heating evenly so my dad was having trouble finding the hot spots to get the chicken grilled.

We were down to the last 5 minutes. The turn-in window was open but I didn’t have enough chicken yet. Lynn and I started to freak out. Miraculously, my dad, the Chicken Master, must have summoned Pele for her help and the chicken was done. I am so glad I had my platters set up because the chicken skewers went on and we walked briskly to the turn-in table. My hands were off the platter at the 8 second mark. I have never cut it so close to the end of the round before. I think I may have held my breath for the moments before I put the platter down at the final countdown table, because I felt faint. If you’ve seen me in other competitions, I cried, #cryingcook. It was just the stress of that last 5 minutes and then the relief that I made it in on time. I don’t have a final picture of the platter since we only had seconds to turn-in. Our presentation plate was requested by Bo Jackson and his crew to eat before it could be shot for professional photos. That was an enormous honor!

At the awards night, I was excited and nervous to see if I went up or down in the ranks. As the names were called, I kept thinking, “Okay, Mike is going to call out your name next.” When he got to the fifth spot and had not called my name, I thought to myself, “I think Mike forgot to call out my name…” When I heard Mike say, “I need the other 3 to step forward,” I felt like I was in a dream or about to have a heart attack. Carrie Rickman to my right helped nudge me forward because I just couldn’t believe my ears. I remember seeing Lidia Haddadian walk toward the front and we hugged and screamed. My Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch scored 91.4444 for a Final Score of 92.6664, moving up 4 spots to 3rd place! Here is my recipe and hope you enjoy!

Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch
Serves 6-8

The tropical flavors of Lipton Iced Tea take you on a trip to Hawaii without leaving your seat. Pineapple and mango flavors infuse perfectly with Hawaiian-style BBQ sauce on tender chicken skewers. No plate lunch is complete without sticky rice and mac salad.

Mac Salad:
1/2 box Barilla Elbow macaroni
4 eggs, hard boiled, chopped
¼ cup sweet onion, finely chopped
¼ cup frozen peas
1 cup imitation crab, chopped
1 dash Bolner’s Fiesta Brand black pepper
1 dash kosher salt
1 dash Ajinomoto
15 oz. jar Best Foods Mayonnaise

2/3 cup Red Gold Tomato Ketchup
2/3 cup Aloha Shoyu
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup agave syrup
½ cup sherry
4 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp ginger powder
4 tsp Bolner’s Fiesta Brand garlic powder
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 - 15 oz. bottle Lipton Tropical Iced Tea
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup mango juice
8 Springer Mountain Farms chicken thighs
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Hawaiian salt

Sticky Rice:
4 cups Calrose rice
4½ cups water
8 tsp furikake

  1. Heat grill to medium heat and cover grill.
  2. Combine all ingredients for marinade.
  3. Boil water for pasta. Once water is to boil, make macaroni per package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  4. Boil eggs for 7 minutes. Let rest off heat for 7 minutes. Cool in cold water for 7 minutes. Peel and chop.
  5. Debone and remove skin from chicken thighs. Pound meat into 1/4” thickness. Slice against the grain into 1” thick strips. Place chicken in ½ of marinade for 15 minutes.
  6. Combine mac salad ingredients together and chill.
  7. Put other ½ of marinade in a sauce pan and reduce on medium-high heat until thickened.
  8. Start sticky rice by rinsing rice 3 times until water is almost clear. Combine rice and water into a covered pot to boil on high heat, about 5 minutes. Reduce to low heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff rice and cover to keep warm.
  9. Skewer chicken strips and set aside for grilling.
  10. Grill chicken for 2 minutes on each side. Remove, baste with thickened sauce, and wrap in foil to keep warm.
  11. On individual plates, scoop sticky rice and sprinkle with furikake. Scoop mac salad and place next to rice.
  12. Place 4-5 skewers in front of the mac salad and rice. Sprinkle diced green onion and Hawaiian salt on top of skewers. Serve immediately.

Again, I want to send HUGE MAHALO to my dad and Lynn Beamer! I promised Lynn that I wouldn’t cry again. I will try my best. HUGE THANKS to my produce sponsor, Melissa’s Produce, for the produce and garnish for the Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch; Springer Mountain Farms for being the category sponsor and providing great chicken thighs to work with; Lipton for sponsoring the infusion of Tropical Iced Tea, Bolner’s Fiesta Brand for the black pepper and garlic powder; Red Gold Tomatoes for the ketchup; and Happy Chef for providing the World Chicken Championship Chef Coat! Congrats to the new World Chicken Champion, Lidia Haddadian, and break a “chicken” leg at the Final Table!

I can’t wait to see what World Food Championships has in store for me this year in the World Sandwich Championship! See y’all in Dallas!

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2018 World Chicken Championship – Opening Round + Recipe

Some of the ingredients in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce, Springer Mountain Farms, Bolner’s Fiesta Brand, and Happy Chef but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Our morning started early as we loaded up on carbs and caffeine at the hotel breakfast in anticipation of the day’s events. Although it was my second year of competition, I couldn’t shake the nervousness. It was a bit of a relief that we were only 8 minutes from The Wharf this time, versus the previous year’s hour-long trek to the venue. With our kitchen tools and ingredients packed up, it was time to head into battle, Battle: Chicken!

We got there early and sat at one of the picnic tables outside the Kitchen Arena. We started seeing other teams arriving. That’s when a sudden realization washed over me. I had forgotten my Happy Chef chef coat in our hotel room!!! My hubby came to the rescue and was back with my chef coat just in time for the cook’s meeting. Geez! I need to put this on the packing list next time!

Credit: World Food Championships

The World Chicken Championship Opening Round is 2 hours of live cooking. The first hour is the Structured Build. For the chicken category, the structured dish was Chicken Parmesan, defined as “A piece of chicken that is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan or provolone. Chicken can be prepared in various ways that include, but are not limited to, breaded, fried, or baked.” The second hour is the Signature Dish where it is the competitor’s choice, as long as it fit the theme of chicken to receive maximum points.

In preparation for the Chicken Parmesan Structured Build, I had to test the recipe. Being a food writer, I was fortunate to have sampled this dish in restaurants all over the country. Now it was time to prepare it in my own kitchen. After preparing a generic version of Chicken Parmesan, it was time to think a little outside of the box. After a month of testing, I finally got it down to a recipe I was happy with. Then, I started playing with presentation. How do I present it, so it looks appetizing? What kind/size of plates do I use? How big or small should I make the presentation piece and judges’ samples? Keep in mind the presentation plate and 5 judges’ samples need to fit on one 20” x 13.75” oval silver platter and nothing can extend more that 3 inches off the edges or elevated more than 3 inches above the platter.

After months of practice, it was time to show the judges my take on a Chicken Parmesan. Everyone has seen a typical chicken parmesan – breaded chicken breast topped with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese served with or atop a bed of pasta. I took all the elements of a chicken parmesan but baked it in a pastry dough as you would a beef wellington. The outside of the pastry had a golden baked shine, criss-crossed with golden brown shredded parmesan, and dotted with thinly sliced tomatoes and black olives. My Chicken Parmington scored 97.5 out of 100.

Chicken Parmington by OC Food Diva
Serves 4

½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano-Pecorino Romano blend
1 tbsp Bolner’s Fiesta Brand granulated garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 + ¼ tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp Bolner’s Fiesta Brand ground black pepper
4 Springer Farms Boneless Skinless chicken breasts
12 slices provolone cheese
4 oz. can, sliced black olives
2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets
24 oz. jar Bertolli Organic Basil & Garlic sauce
2 large eggs
2 cups shredded parmesan
1 Roma tomato, firm, thinly sliced for garnish
Basil leaves, for garnish
Oregano leaves, for garnish
Cherry tomatoes, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, add grated parmesan cheese, granulated garlic, dried oregano, 1 tsp kosher salt, and pepper. Toss to combine, then set aside.
  4. Thinly slice tomatoes. Place between paper towels and set aside.
  5. Cut chicken breasts in half, pound to ½” thick, and trim into 4” squares.
  6. In small bowl, whisk eggs with ¼ tsp salt. Set aside.
  7. Unroll crescent roll dough and cut in half. Flatten with hands on parchment paper. Cut dough in half to make 2 squares.
  8. Place 3 slices provolone cheese in the center of crescent roll dough square. Place 2 tablespoon of sauce (at room temperature) on top of cheese.  Layer on 1 tablespoon olives and 1 tablespoon parmesan mixture. Top with chicken breast and 1 tablespoon parmesan mixture.
  9. Fold up opposite corners of the dough to wrap up the chicken. Pinch up seams and any holes that might have opened while stretching dough around chicken. Flip over and place on parchment paper so that seams are facing down.
  10. Brush outside with egg wash. Place thinly sliced tomatoes in a flower petal pattern from center. Sprinkle shredded parmesan and olives on top.
  11. Bake for 30 minutes.
  12. Heat remaining sauce on low.
  13. Remove from oven and garnish with a side of marinara sauce, fresh basil and oregano leaves, and cherry tomatoes. Serve immediately.

For my signature dish, I wanted to bring a bit of “aloha” to Orange Beach. I knew the flavor profile I wanted to use but didn’t know which part of the chicken to showcase. I tested the flavor with chicken breasts and chicken thighs. I started to think about how we love to eat in Hawaii. The first thing that came to mind was the “plate lunch”. Plate lunch features a protein served with sticky rice and mac salad. Huli Huli Chicken is a very popular way of cooking chicken in Hawaii. “Huli” means “turn”. Huli Huli Chicken is Hawaii’s version of BBQ meets rotisserie. Since I didn’t have hours to cook the chicken, I went with skewered chicken thighs served with sticky rice and our family’s recipe for mac salad. Even though the judges are judging my entry on the chicken, I had to give judges the experience of a plate lunch. My Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch scored 91.5 out of 100. My total score for the round was 94.5, placing me in 7th place. Placement in the Top 10 means that I am moving to the Top 10 round. Stay tuned for this recipe in the Top 10 blog post!

I want to send HUGE MAHALO to my dad who travelled all the way from Hilo, HI and my friend, Lynn Beamer, who travelled from South Carolina to be my sous chefs. I couldn’t have done this without them! We made a great team and my dad has a new nickname, “Chicken Master”. My produce sponsor, Melissa’s Produce, provided me with beautiful herbs used in the Chicken Parmington and produce and garnish for the Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch. Big hugs to my cheerleaders, Susanne Duplantis of Makeover My Leftovers (competed in the World Burger Championship) and Lisa Keys of Good Grief Cook (soused for Rebecka Evans of At Home with Rebecka, 2017 Bacon World Champion).

What an exciting day! After being under pressure for 2 hours, it was time to unwind, wash dishes/aprons, and get some lunch!

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Hatch Chile Season is Here! Spicy Cheesy Hatch Chile Polenta Fries Recipe

Some of the ingredients and products in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own. One ...