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Chiles - Information, Tips, and Roasting Instructions
Karen From Colorado
Sat Apr 09, 2005 1:42 pmFood.com Groupie
No discussion of Mexican food could go far without the mention of chilies. These pungent vegetables make up much of the food in their native Mexico. Although chilies are notorious for their hotness, in small doses they can add delicate flavor to food, and there are many mild or even sweet chilies to chose from when preparing your Mexican dishes.
The availability of chilies in the United States is not always dependable, but you can find most varieties fresh, dried, or canned in Mexican specialty stores and in many large supermarkets. If you can't find the particular chili called for in a recipe, all is not lost. There are many acceptable substitutes to chose from such as chili powder, crushed red peppers, bottle hot sauces, and cayenne.
Be very careful when you handle any kind of chili. They contain oils which can burn your skin and eyes. Avoid direct contact as much as possible. Many chef's will wear rubber gloves when handling chilies. Be sure to wash your hands and nails very well with lots of soap and water afterwards no matter what you use.
To prepare dried ancho and pasilla chilies, first rinse them in cold water. Cut the chilies open and discard the seeds and stem. Cut them into small pieces using scissors or a knife. Place them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water for 45 to 60 minutes to soften. Drain of the water and use in your recipe.
You can also buy green chilies such as poblano, California, jalapeno or serrenos in a can either plain or pickled. rinse them well in cold water and cut them open to remove the seeds and steams by holding them down with a fork and using a knife to scrap out the seeds and veins. You can now either chop them or leave them whole for your recipe.
When buying fresh chilies (my favorite) you will most likely want to remove the skins. This is not as hard as you might think it would be. Broil or grill them 2 inches from the heat for about 15 minutes, turning them often until the skins blister and turn black or dark brown on all sides. Place hot peppers in a paper bag or wrap in foil to steam until they are cooled enough to handle. The peels will now come off easily and you can now seed and use your peppers as you desire.
Be sure to taste your chilies before adding them to any dish everytime you use them. Even if they are a chili you are familiar with. The "heat" can be much different then the last time you used the same kind of chili. Hottness can vary immensely even from the same plant. If chili is too hot, just add less of it and if it is not hot enough, add a few seeds (which are usually the hottest part of the chili). You can find more information about the heat indexes of different chilies at Scoville Heat Index.
Below is a short list of chilies most commonly used in the United States.
This is the dried poblano chili, and the most commonly used dried chili. It is 3 to 5 inches long and a deep brownish-red color. It's flavor is rich and mildly hot. If ancho chilies are not available, you can substitute one pasilla chili, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or about 2 teaspoons chili powder for each chili. When fresh and still green, these mildly hot, heart-shaped peppers are stuffed and made into chiles rellenos. When mature they are dark, rust red, richly flavored, and often dried and ground into chili powder. Peppers become 4 inches long, tapering to a blunt point. Wrinkled skin takes on even more character when dried. May be strung into long ropes or made into wreaths.
A dry chili that is longer, slimmer and darking in color then the ancho. The pasilla is also slightly hotter.
Tiny, dried red chilies that are very hot. Pequin (or tepin) chilies are usually available in jars or packets in the supermarket spice section. To use, simply crush. Substitute an equal amount of crush red pepper for pequin chilies.
Familiar to most of you, these mild sweet peppers are used extensively both north and south of the border. Bell peppers turn red as they ripen, becoming even sweeter. The green ones can be found year round in most grocery stores.
Often simply referred to as green chilies, fresh California chilies are very popular in the west coast of the United States. They are available canned in most American supermarkets. California chilies vary from mildly hot to hot, and add a special flavor to many traditional Mexican foods.
These very hot little chilies are green when fresh, ripening to bright red. They are about 1 1/2 inches long and are most commonly used fresh or pickled. You can substitute jalapeno chilies.
Also extremely hot, green jalapeno chilies are about 2 1/2 inches long. They are often available fresh, but you can usually find them canned or pickled.
The fresh form of the ancho chili, the pablano chili is usually mild. Similar in size and flavor to bell peppers, fresh poblano chilies are available in the West. The canned variety is more widely distributed.
Chile de Arbol
Chiles de Arbol are small orange-red chiles 2 to 3 inches in length with a 1/2 inch width. These peppers are very hot.
Chipotle are jalepeñoes which are dried over a warm smoke. The dried chiles are 2 1/2 inches by 1 inch and have a dark brown color. The are usually purchased canned in a tomato sauce called adobado. The sauce is an excellent seasoning for beans or any other dish where a smoky spiciness is desired.
Guajillos vary in size but an average one is 4 1/2 by 2 inches with a blunt end. Their brittle and translucent skin is bright red. They have a thick, brittle skin and yield relatively little pulp.
A Mulato looks much like an Ancho but looks darker when held up to a light. They give a dish a medium-hot, non-sweet taste.
The Habanero is one of the world's hottest chile. Underneath the heat is a delicate plum-tomato apple-like flavour. The riper red ones have a sweetness that gives them a mouthwatering appeal. It has an irregular spheroid shape, with a small point, and is around 2 inches long by 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches wide. It is available in green, yellow, scarlet and deep red.
Tall plants produce very hot 3 to 5-inch orange-red peppers that are generally dried into powder for use in sauces and stews. A Capsicum baccatum type with 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units.
Look just like a Red Habanero, but has little or no heat. This variety is popular in Latin American countries, because the pretty 2 in. long red peppers offer the same strong aromatic essence and flavor that is found in Habanero, with only a hint of heat. Tall plants produce an abundant harvest of tasty fruits.
Also know as the 'New Mexican Chile,' this moderately pungent fruit is deep green, but turns red at full maturity. Very smooth peppers are 7-1/2 inches long and 2 inches wide and borne on tall, productive plants that offer good foliage cover for the fruit. Tobacco mosaic virus resistant. Excellent for canning, freezing or drying.
A beautiful ornamental pepper with purple foliage and flowers, it bears a profusion of fruit in a rainbow of colors on 2 to 3 ft. tall plants. The small cone-shaped, 1 in. fruit starts out purple, but turns to yellow to orange, and finally to red, with all color stages on the plant at once. Very hot peppers are edible, but are mainly grown for their striking appearance.
Beautiful, 3-1/2 inch long, bright orange peppers have the shape and color of a carrot, but are quite hot. Fruit is produced in abundance on short plants, making for quite a show in the garden. The flavor of these chiles is not only hot, it is also fruity, lending itself to use in chutneys, salsas, sauces, and even hot pepper jelly. Bulgarian heirloom variety.
Seed for this habanero variety was found in the Caribbean, and then improved, resulting in a uniform, fiercely hot pepper that is way hotter than the regular orange habanero. Dried samples of Caribbean Red measured 445,000 Scoville units whereas regular habanero tested at about 260,000 Scovilles. This pepper must be used carefully, but is wonderful for salsas, marinades, and making your own hot sauce. Bright red, wrinkled fruits are about 1-1/2 inches deep and 1 inch wide and have flavor with fruity overtones.
A new hot cayenne type with thin, 4-inch long peppers that turn from yellow to bright orange and red when ripe. Developed by the USDA, and reported to rate 70,000 Scoville units. Productive plants show resistance to nematodes.
Hot cherry pepper that yields up to 50% more than the older, open-pollinated type. Thick-walled fruit is round to oval and matures from green to red. Pungency is medium-hot with about 20% less heat than a Jalapeno.
This is a tiny pea-shaped chile that is no more than 1/4 inch long and wide. This variety grows wild throughout Mexico and some parts of the Southwestern U.S. They are among the hottest peppers available, measuring about 100,000 Scoville units. The plants can grow to 4 feet and are capable of living for years where the climate allows. These fiery little red peppers are popular for spicing up soups and bean dishes.
The largest of New Mexican varieties, this pepper has pods up to 12 inches long that weigh as much as 4 ounces. Their size makes them a favorite for chiles rellenos. Medium hot pungency. As an advantage, plants are able to set fruit under hot, dry conditions.
4 inch long, slightly wrinkled peppers taper to a blunt, lobed end and are very popular for pickling. They have a mildly hot but exciting flavor and are commonly jarred for use in Greek salads and salad bars.
The fruit of this jalapeno turns dark purple and stays that way for a long time before finally ripening to red. Peppers are somewhat larger than regular jalapeno, but with the same thick walls and fiery heat. Great for use in salsas and would be very attractive pickled with a mixture of other jalapeno colors.
Santa Fe Grande aka Gueritos
These small, light yellow peppers are about 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, tapering to a point and resembling a miniature banana pepper. They are not sweet, however, but about as hot as a Jalapeno, measuring 5,000 to 8,000 Scoville units. They can be enjoyed fresh, but are also perfect for pickling. Their small size and medium-thick walls make them ideal for putting up into jars for use in salads, sandwiches, or salsas. Eventually, this pepper ripens to orange-red.
A Capsicum chinese very similar to Habanero, but later in maturity with fruit that is not quite as long. Tall, vigorous plants bear peppers that begin as green, but mature to red. Fruity aroma and same blistering heat as the Habanero.
Fiery hot, this is the one that has made Tabasco sauce famous. Green leaf strain that grows best in the South and East. Light yellow-green peppers turn to red and grow on tall plants.
Extremely hot variety originally from Thailand. Plants become covered with 1-1/2 inch long peppers that are green at first but ripen to red. Both colors appear on the plant at the same time making this variety ornamental as well as edible. Thin fleshed peppers are used especially in Oriental dishes.
For a much more extensive data base on chilies, please click on Chili Varieties Database (Thank you TJW, we appreciate your turning us onto this great site for alot more chili information then I have listed here in this short list)
Source: Tomato Growers Supply Company
How To Roast Fresh Chile Peppers
Chiles roasted over an open flame, or in the oven, impart a delicious smoky flavor to salsas or any dish that uses chiles. The methods mentioned below in general work well for roasting tomatoes and garlic as well.
Always wear gloves when working with hot chile peppers. This is no time to be macho. Never touch your eyes when working with chiles, fresh or dried.
This method works well for roasting a small quantity of chile peppers but it does not work well for tomatoes or garlic. Use a long handled cooking fork with a handle made with a non heat-conducting material. Pierce the pepper with the fork and hold the pepper over a gas flame (or grill flame), about 4" from the heat source. Keep turning the pepper until it is evenly charred on all sides. The pepper skins should turn black when properly roasted. Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag and seal the bag. (You can also use a small wire grilling basket and char a few peppers at a time.)
For tomatoes, garlic, or a larger quantity of chiles you can use a stove-top grill such as the one shown below. This fits over a gas or electric burner. Sit the chiles on top and turn occasionally to allow even charring.
(Works well for chiles, garlic and tomatoes)
Preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C) Spread the peppers evenly on a cookie sheet, in a single layer. Roast the peppers for about 4-5 minutes until the skins blister. Watch carefully so they do not burn. Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag and seal the bag.
Clean and Peel
Allow the chile peppers to sweat in the bag for about 10 to 15 minutes. When you remove them from the bag they will be easy to peel. Rinse the peppers under cool running water (wear gloves!). Peel the chile, remove and discard the skin, seeds, and the veins. (It may be desirable to have a small amount of the charred skin remain, depending on the dish. This can be a flavorful addition to fresh salsa).
You can roast whole peppers (sweet or hot, depending on what you intend to use them for) over a very hot wood or charcoal fire. Place peppers directly on the grill (if it's still flaming a bit, so much the better!) and turn frequently with tongs to allow the skins to blister and blacken. Roasted peppers are wonderful on their own or as a recipe ingredients.
When the peppers are charred, remove them from the fire and place in a food grade plastic bag. Allow some air to remain in the bag and loosely tie. The steam that will form in the bag will help to remove the skin. Let cool for about fifteen minutes or until you can easily handle the peppers. Remove from bag and use your hands to peel off the skins. Cut off the stem end and slice the peppers open. Remove the core and seeds and cut into strips.
Alternatively, you can use one of these other methods to roast peppers:
You can roast and blacken the pepper on the burner directly over the gas flame on your stovetop (have a fire extinguisher nearby and never try this with an electric stove).
If you don't have an open fire, you can also roast peppers in the oven or under a broiler. Put the peppers directly on the oven rack and roast until blistered and charred. Proceed as above. Quarter, core and seed larger peppers before roasting this way.
How to roast peppers in your oven
When you roast peppers over high heat, their skins blacken and blister. Peel it off and you'll find a treasure below: sweet, tender flesh with a pleasantly smoky taste. Any fresh pepper can be roasted, but those with thick flesh, such as bell peppers and jalapenos, work best.
Select a heat source. Peppers are best roasted over a live fire, such as a gas burner or a charcoal or gas grill. Lacking those, you can use a broiler.
Turn the heat to High (or turn on the broiler).
If using a broiler, cut the pepper in half and remove the stem, veins, and seeds. Place the pepper on a broiler pan.
Coat the pepper lightly with oil.
Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, or, using metal tongs, place the flesh of the pepper directly in the flame of the burner or as close to the heat source as possible.
Rotate the pepper as the flesh closest to the heat blackens and blisters.
Remove the pepper when it has blackened completely.
Place it in a bowl and cover to allow it to steam (or put the peppers in a paper bag and close it).
After 15 to 20 minutes, scrape off and discard the blackened skin.
Remove and discard the seed pod, stem and inner ribs before using.
When one part of the skin has blistered and turned black, try to keep it away from the heat while you blacken the rest of the pepper.
The pepper should be very black. In fact, it will look burned, but if done properly and quickly, only the outer skin will blacken, and the flesh of the pepper will remain its natural color.
To preserve as much of the smokiness and roasted flavor, try to scrape the skin off and discard it without rinsing the pepper in the sink.
Roasted peppers can be eaten as antipasto, pureed into a sauce, or used almost anywhere fresh peppers are called for.
If roasting peppers indoors, make sure your kitchen is well ventilated.
Don't hold metal tongs in the heat for very long. They can heat up and possibly burn you.
Questions? Please post them in the Mexican/Tex-Mex/Southwest United States Forum.
Last edited by Karen From Colorado on Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:38 pm, edited 16 times in total
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