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All About Chipotle

By Dennis Linden - - February, 2008 Chipotles are jalapeño peppers that have been ripened to a red color and smoked until they are brown, dried nuggets of spicy flavor that can be stored indefinitely. The jalapeño pepper smokes well because its thick flesh and relatively low rating on the pepper heat scale allows the smoky BBQ essence of its southwest origins to come through in a blend of complex tastes that can be featured as a primary whole ingredient in a main dish or a seasoning condiment .

The great thing about writing this article each month is learning about new flavors. One recent discovery is the dried Chipotle peppers used in the cucumber roll recipe of this month’s Guest Chef feature. When the recipe was submitted, I realized that while I had seen the word "Chipotle" on restaurant menus, I had no clue what the term really meant beyond some vague notion of a hot sauce. Over the course of the last few weeks I have used it to perk up dishes served at every meal of the day and now consider myself a certified Chipotle-head and proud of it! Chipotles are jalapeño peppers that have been ripened to a red color and smoked until they are brown, dried nuggets of spicy flavor that can be stored indefinitely. The jalapeño pepper smokes well because its thick flesh and relatively low rating on the pepper heat scale allows the smoky BBQ essence of its southwest origins to come through in a blend of complex tastes that can be featured as a primary whole ingredient in a main dish or a seasoning condiment.

Don Enrique Chile Chipotle
Melissa’s Don Enrique Dried Chile Chipotle is ready to use, including basic instructions on how to reconstitute the peppers. Wear gloves when handling any pepper in the Capsicum family. Capsaicin is what makes a pepper hot and it easily transfers to fingers or gloves until washed off thoroughly with milk or liquid detergent; capsaicin is not water soluble. By experience, I found that touching one’s tongue or eyes after handling any hot pepper, dried or fresh, will add unwanted spice to the day! About 80 percent of a chile’s capsaicin is found in the ribs and seeds, which can be removed to reduce its heat. Seeding dried peppers is as simple as splitting each pepper; the seeds fall out freely.

While powdered Chipotle is a rare retail commodity, it can be made using a spice grinder. Try a pinch of Chipotle powder mixed into mayonnaise for a spicy sandwich spread or to give burgers a zesty flair. Use the powder as you would any other spice in cooking; pan fried shrimp being one of this writer’s favorite combinations. Add the powder to sour cream to give vegetable dip an altogether unique tang!

In a culinary rut, surrounded by the same familiar food flavors? Try one of the many Chipotle recipes found on this web site or make a batch of Adobo Sauce then add some, whole or puréed, to whatever you were going to prepare for dinner tonight! Take this Chipotle challenge and add a little spice to your life, at least in the kitchen!