Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chile Peppers: Ancho, New Mexico, Chiltepin, Pequin

Recently, I received an inquiry from a customer regarding chile peppers.

Hello Heather. Can you please advise me on how to use some chile peppers I received in a beautiful gift basket? I’d like to know what dishes to use them in, how much and how hot they are. We do like spicy. Here are the names: Chile – New Mexico, Chile – Chiltepin, Chile – Ancho, Chile – Pequin. I appreciate the advice.
Thank You, Angie

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Hi Angie!

We're glad you are enjoying the basket and hope you'll have some fun with the chiles. I'll take it mild to hot.

To use dried chiles, you can either just toss them whole (destemmed) or chopped directly into a dish that has a lot of liquid, and they will rehydrate as they cook. Or, you can pre-rehydrate them by placing the chiles in a resealable bag with a little warm water, then wait at least a half hour. If the dried chile is still flexible, it is easy to remove the seeds, if you like, by slitting it down one side and using a spoon or paring knife to scrape out the seeds. That will reduce the heat level of whatever dish you are making.

The Ancho chile is basically a dried Poblano, which is a very mild variety. This one is great for adding a deep, almost chocolaty flavor to a dish.

The New Mexico chile is a medium heat chile that is great to use for making homemade chili. This is the same chile as the Anaheim or California chile, just grown in New Mexico. Like wines, the same variety of chile can have a different flavor based on where it is grown (terroir in the world of viniculture).

The Chiltepin or Tepin chile is quite spicy, so I'd use in dishes sparingly. It is one of the two state chiles of Texas. You can crush the whole chiles and keep the seeds to get a much hotter version of pepper flakes for pizza. It is also great for adding heat to chili and soups.

The Pequin is a chile from Mexico. Its small size means it is quite hot (not quite as hot as a habanero, but significantly hotter than most other chile peppers out there). My husband, Brian, likes to toss a small number into a pot of chili to make "firecracker" chili, meaning that every once in a while, instead of what you thought was a bean, you get a little hot firecracker going off in your mouth. This holiday season I made chile vinegar with it, simply by tossing a tablespoon or two of Pequins into a jar of white vinegar.

You can make good chile oils with any of the dried chiles, just go to a site like to make sure you do it in a way that is bacteria-free. No worries with the spiced vinegars, as nothing can grow in that much acid.

I hope this is helpful, and if you ever run into a question while you're cooking, feel free to call the store at 216-291-3450.

Happy cooking!


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