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Hot Time Tonight

Larry Mallin’s the chile man.

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You can still find a 1920s book of nursery rhymes at the River Market Antique Mall (115 West Fifth Street) with the famous "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers" tongue twister in it. But seriously impassioned pepper purchasers would do much better to stroll outside to the mall's parking lot, where pepper promoter Larry Mallin has fenced off a corner of the space to house his Hatch Chile of KC business.

Mallin is the co-owner of the antique mall, so it was easy enough for him to set up shop right there, underneath the newly painted mural of the Lewis and Clark expedition on the west side of the mall building. Instead of pecks of pickled peppers, Mallin sells green chiles freshly imported from Hatch, New Mexico, and mounded up in plastic laundry baskets. Mallin will roast up to three bushels for $3.

He got into the chile business this year after five years of driving to Denver once a year and hauling back 20 or 30 bushels of the meaty chiles (a variety of the green Anaheim chile). This year, using a refrigerated truck, Mallin has imported lots of moderately fiery sandia chiles, which register 500-2,500 Scoville heat units (a jalapeño, which registers between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville units, is much, much hotter), and even milder (500-1,000 Scoville units) green New Mexico 6-4 chiles.

Mallin keeps regular hours (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday), weather permitting, in his fenced-in chile chamber. The Hatch chiles are priced at $25 a bushel or $3 for a 1-pound bag of the sandias. Mallin suggests having the chiles roasted there before taking them home and freezing them in heavy-duty Ziploc bags. It's up to you to decide whether to peel the skin off the roasted chiles first (making sure to wear gloves or wash carefully, Mallin says, "with copious amounts of salt and water") or freeze them with the skin left on.

"The skin comes off easier when the chiles are defrosted," Mallin says. "And the Chile Pepper Institute says that freezing the chiles with the skin left on protects them from freezer burn."

Mallin provides a few recipes in his brochure, including a basic green chile sauce and one for chile rellenos. But for chile chompers chasing more challenging chow, the neighboring antique mall has a trove of vintage cookbooks, including 40 Miracles for the Table.

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