Saturday, February 05, 2005

Working with Dried Chiles

Everything went well this afternoon. Daughter and family are off to celebrate a few birthdays with their peers and then head home to the Bay Area.

I didn't use the dried chiles in the chili recipe tonight. Instead, I depended on bottled chili powder as I've done for 35 years of professional cooking. A note: Please buy quality chili powder -- a few pennies is well worth it in the flavor department. One of these days I'll purchase a load of spices from Penzeys.

Working with dried chiles has been a new adventure for me these past few months. I find a definite difference between ancho, California red and New Mexico chiles. Following a common practice, I've lightly boiled the chiles in water to cover for about 30 minutes. After cooling the chiles for a few minutes, I scrape the pulp off of the leathery skin. I then run my French knife through the pulp a few times and mix it into the pot.

I find that the anchos take a little more patience when separating the pulp from the skin. If you're not careful, the skin tears into small pieces. This process tries your patience. California and New Mexico chiles are much easier to work with. The pulp glides right off.

My Next Chile Project

My next chili project is to make my own chili powder. I watched Alton Brown make it on Good Eats (The Big Chili episode) a few weeks ago. It makes sense to me because I already make my own BBQ spice rub and taco seasoning.

AB's recipe calls for a blend of three dried chiles: ancho (for sweetness), cascabel (for flavor) and arbol (for heat). Just toss 3 pods of each variety and cumin seeds into a medium-hot cast iron skillet to toast. After cooling, you throw the chiles and cumin, along with dried oregano, garlic powder and smoked paprika into the blender. You then process the flavor pods into a fine powder. Of course, AB supplies a companion recipe for pressure cooker chili.


  1. I buy spices from Penzeys and so far, I am impressed. Pretty quick service, too.

    Neat blog.

  2. Thanks, Sharon. Glad to see another Dutch oven cooking enthusiast on Blogger. My mother lived in Nebraska as a teen (I think it was in the Dark Ages!).

    Have you heard of the International Dutch Oven Society? I'll be commenting on it soon as I'm the newsletter editor.

  3. Yes, Steve, I have heard of IDOS. I am a member of the Pioneers of the Gulf Coast, a chapter of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society..will be glad to be back in Texas.. am going to try to make a DOG in Kerrville next month.

  4. New to this blog but have a technique for dried chili I thought I would share. Remove the seeds and stems from the pods then boil them as you mentioned. Put the rehydrated pods in to a blender and puree them. Pour the puree into a collander and strain the mixture into a bowl. I use about a cup of the mixture per 6# of chili meat. I then freeze the remainder in 1 cup portions to take along on a camp out or to use around the house. You may also season the mixture wit salt, pepper, garlic, etc. before freezing.