Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.


Smokin' Chipotles

by Sandra Bowens

Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

They seem to be on every menu lately, these chiles with the funny name. Chipotle (say chi-POHT-lay) peppers are a tasty way to liven up your diet but be warned, they are hot, hot. Of course, that's relative to your tolerance but most ratings give them a "medium" on the heat scale.


First the facts


Chipotles are red, meaning fully ripened, jalapenos that are dried by smoking. They become a sort of dark brown color that Mexican food guru Diane Kennedy describes as "...the appearance of a piece of old tobacco."


The name comes from the Aztec language of ancient Mexico, Nahuatl, and means 'smoked chile.' The botanical name is capsicum annum.


You will find them canned in adobo sauce or dried. The adobo sauce is a thick and mild but very flavorful red chili. After opening a can, transfer any extra chiles and sauce to a container with a lid and store in the refrigerator. They last for months this way.


If you are going to purchase dried chipotles, make sure they are whole pieces that are still pliable. Keep them dry in a ziplock bag for a year or two.


What are they for?


Chipotles enhance so many dishes from soups and meats to salsas and condiments. They offer a rich, smoky flavor and a good dose of heat.


Chipotles seem to have an affinity for poultry but they are good with pork and beef too. Mix pureed chiles into aioli (garlic mayonnaise) for a great sandwich spread. Add zip to enchiladas or other Mexican dishes with a bit of chipotle in the sauce.


The possibilities are almost endless and you may find yourself craving the flavor after experimenting.


How do I use them?


Canned chiles are easy to use. Just drop them into a recipe whole and remove before serving to keep the heat down or mince them up for full flavor. Don't worry about trying to remove the seeds.


The dried chipotles require more attention but are also more versatile. Lightly toast the whole, dried chile for extra flavor before soaking in hot water or vinegar for about thirty minutes. After soaking, drain and puree into a paste using a bit of liquid from the recipe you want to prepare, if necessary. Again, don't worry about removing seeds.


As with all chiles, try to handle chipotles as little as possible. Don't rub your eyes or touch sensitive body parts until you are well-rid of any residue.


Can I smoke my own?


Backyard smoker aficionados may wish to try converting jalapenos to chipotles themselves. It will take about 10 pounds of fresh peppers to get one pound of dried. Detailed instructions for this process from the Feiry Foods website can be found by clicking here.


A recipe for starters


Here's an easy soup recipe that highlights the smoky pepper. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, that's what I did. Poaching the chicken in the simmering soup keeps the prep work and clean-up to a minimum. Cooked rice might be a nice addition to create a heartier soup.


Smoky Chicken and Vegetable Soup


1/4 pound fresh green beans, sliced into quarter-inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped bell peppers (both red and green are prettier)

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, divided

1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chiles

1 canned chipotle chile, minced

3 cups chicken stock, divided (see NOTE below)

1 raw chicken breast (about 5 ounces)

1 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen

1 bay leaf


Bring a quart of water to a boil in a three-quart saucepan. Add green bean pieces and the salt to boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.


Return pot to medium-high heat and add oil. Heat for a minute or two and then add the onion, bell peppers, celery and carrot. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Add the reserved green beans and 1/2 teaspoon of the oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes. Stir in the can of tomatoes with their liquid, the minced chile and half the chicken stock.


Reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the chicken breast in the vegetable and liquid mixture so that it is partially immersed. Cover the pan and allow the chicken to poach for about 15 minutes. When cooked through, remove it from pot. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then shred into small pieces with your fingers or two forks.


While the chicken is cooling, stir the kidney beans, corn, remaining chicken stock and bay leaf into the pot. Add shredded chicken and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Enjoy!


Makes 4-6 servings


NOTE: If you are going to use bullion cubes in water for the chicken stock, make it weak (2 cubes or 2 teaspoons granulated, rather than 3) to avoid oversalting the recipe.



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