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Smoking Hot Chilies

Smoking Hot Chilies

Chef Clyde Serda | Chef's Blade

I am sure that all of you have read about various chiles; be they fresh or dried. There are marvelous books out on the fiery subjects. This article is about one of the most common of the chilies: the Jalapeno Chile Pepper. This chile is used fresh in salsas, vinaigrettes, marinades, sauces, even stuffed and fried or eaten raw as a crunchy, hot, but flavorful pepper. This pepper has a rather low Scoville Rating of 2,500 to 5,000 but the burn is on the lips and in the front of the mouth. The Scoville Ratings, rates the heat the capsicum gives off, it’s from an undetectable 100 Scoville units to the ultra high Scoville rating of the dried Haberano Chile, which comes in around 300,000 units. This chile will make you sweat and swear as you feel the hair on your face grow with every bite! This system of rating was invented by a Michigan pharmacologist William Scoville in 1912. But this chile has the ability to go through the metamorphous of being smoked and becoming a Chipotle (smoked jalapeno). A chipotle chile looks somewhat like a dried morel. It has a light reddish brown color with a leathery texture. The chile is ripened on the vine until it turns red, which makes this chile a little sweeter and hotter. It is then picked off the vine and placed onto a wire screen. The chile plants are then dried dry and burned under the screen, the smoke moving upwards to the chillies, giving them a rich sent with hints of chocolate and leather, and, most of all, a smoky flavor.

To use the dried chipotles, remove the hard, dried stems and seeds. There are several ways to further process them. The chipotle can be rehydrated by placing them in boiling water or stock and allowed to steep and rehydrate, for about half an hour or by toasting the chipotles a little farther, then grinding them into a powder, which is used in moles or sauces. You can place them whole in soups or sauces, then remove them when the desired intensity of flavor is achieved. Chipotles will give food a smoky flavor, somewhat like a smoked meat would, with an additional mild kick.

Chipotles also come in a red chile sauce called Chipotles en Adobo, (Chipotles in Adobo). This can be found in the Mexican section of most stores or through vendors. When purchased this way, the chipotle chiles have been stemmed and mostly seeded. This mixture can be pureed and strained to remove any unwanted seeds. Now the real fun can begin. So what do you use it in? Well, first think smoky flavor, then think of the after burn, so use it sparingly. Make your regular salsa or barbecue sauce and add a teaspoon or two for punch. You can make a Chipotle Butter, by softening and blending unsalted butter with Chipotle en Adobo puree. The butter will have an orangish tint to it with flecks of red. Now, you can place it in a piping bag and make roses and place then in ice water to set; or pipe rosettes by filling molds or piping onto a piece of plastic wrap. Then roll and chill. Place a slice on a baked potato or use in a Burre Blanc Sauce or Hollandaise. Try it on corn on the cob or vegetables. Once you start to use chipotle sauce, you will find ways to spice up your life and give a new depth to your food. Always remember to use gloves or wash your hands several times after handling any type of chile, fresh or dry; the chili essence will remain on your hands and burn your eyes if you touch them by mistake.

I have recently found a produce grower who smokes all types of chile peppers, which they grow, dry, and smoke locally such as the Chipotle Serrano, Chipotle Santa Fe, Chipotle New Mexico and the Chipotle Hungarian Wax, which are mild but would provide a smoky flavor for those a little more faint of heart. They use the term chipotle as a reference to a “dried and smoked chile”.

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