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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Essential Sweet-n-Smoky Chipotle Paste

Have I ever told you of my dried chile addiction?  They literally make me weak in the knees.  And I'm not talking about the overly-dried chiles that are so brittle they break apart at the slightest touch.  No, I'm talking about the dried chiles that are soft and pliable and ridiculously sexy.  Just a sniff has been known to lighten my mood or calm my nerves.

Take for instance this ancho chile that I have in my hand.  I know you can't see it, but I want you to close your eyes and visualize it.  But don't keep them closed or you can't continue reading my riveting words.  So picture a chile.  It's a deep, deep red.  It is smooth on the outside and sticky with spicy resin on the inside.  When I lift it to my nose and take in its scent, I smell sweet and rich and raisiny all at the same time.

No picture a gallon-sized baggie full of smaller packets of different types of dried chiles.  Aside from the anchos, there are pasillas, and mulatos...there are guajillos and moritas.  There are piquins and chiles de arbol.
That bag is sitting on a shelf in my pantry.  And every once in a while I just NEED to stop, zip open the top, and take a deep whiff.  It just makes me all kinds of happy.  I'm gonna have to include it in my "top 5 favorite smells" list.  What?  You don't have a favorite smells list?  Well, I do.

Approaching the subject of making something with those chiles (while quietly leaving behind my weird habits), I want to talk about the glorious smokiness of the morita, or dried chipotle chile.  There are a few different types of chipotles, but the red morita is my preference.  A chipotle is a red jalapeño that has been smoked and dried over the course of several days.  That is where those seductive smoky undertones come from.  If you open up a package that is filled with dried chipotles, you'll get a big nose full of it.  I highly recommend it.  Getting a nose full.  As if you couldn't have guessed.
This paste is extremely potent.  It makes an awesome seasoning-agent for those heat and spice lovers out there. And while it is tempered with a little sweetness from a syrup made with little cones of piloncillo, it is still FIRE.  So tell me, what do you think you would season with this paste that is deep, earthy, and smoky with a hint of sweetness?

Essential Sweet-n-Smoky Chipotle Paste

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: simmer condiment preserving nut-free soy-free vegan vegetarian chiles Mexican

Ingredients (1¼ cups)
  • 2½ oz. piloncillo (or ⅓ c. dark brown sugar + 2 tsp. molasses)
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 oz. (~50) dried chipotle chiles (moritas/colorados), stemmed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ~½ tsp. salt
Place 1¼ cups of water into a medium-sized saucepan and add piloncillo. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Set a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add ~¼-inch of oil. When oil is hot, add half of the chiles and stir and toss them constantly until they start to smell amazing (but be careful not to inhale too deeply or you'll probably have a coughing fit) and change color a bit, ~1 minute. Transfer them to the pan with the piloncillo syrup, leaving behind as much oil as possible. Repeat with second half of chiles. Add garlic cloves to pan with oil and cook, stirring, until golden; this should take a couple more minutes. Add those to the chiles.

Pour everything into the jar of a blender or food processor and puree until very smooth.

Wipe out the skillet and then coat it with a thin layer of oil and set it over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add all of the chile puree at once. Stir for a minute, scraping up anything that sticks to the bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 10-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the salsa has become as thick as tomato paste. It will smell (and taste) extremely spicy and be darkened considerably...almost black).

Taste CAREFULLY and season with salt. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Will keep for weeks if stored properly.

suggested uses:
Stir a tablespoon or so into beans, soups, or bland barbecue sauces.

Mix a couple tablespoons with fish broth, wine, or water and use as boiling/steaming liquid to cook mussels or clams. Season and add chopped cilantro before pouring over the shellfish.

Make a cheese spread with cream cheese, goat cheese, green onions, cilantro or thyme, and some of the paste; season. Spread on crusty bread and add some ripe tomato slices.

Add a bit of water to thin the paste out and make it "saucy" then pass at the table as a condiment.

Make garlic-chipotle shrimp.

ever-so-slightly adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
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Would you like to comment?

  1. I love chillies too. It would be great if you linked this in to Food on Friday: Chillies. Have a great week.

  2. Gorgeous.I love this stuff too.

  3. OOh this is serious hot stuff ! Making it as soon as I get the chilies :)

  4. I use a lot of chipotle paste, it's one of our favourite flavours. I really must try this recipe!

  5. LOL! I now have an image of you huffing chiles. I'm guilty of the same thing except I think my all time favorite smell is when I'm zesting or supreming oranges. I think oranges smell like heaven.

    I think you definitely need to mix some of this into cream cheese, or any other kind of cheese and make sandwiches, dips, spreads, etc. That cheese mixture would be great on a burger (can you tell I'm craving a good burger?). I also think this would be good in beans! know I'm going to suggest that! But, what you would probably like to do with it is put it in tortilla soup!

  6. Oh, the things I could do with this!
    Do you think it would work as a kind of rub on chicken? I'm getting this vision of crispy roasted chipotle flavored chicken skin.

    BTW, I snort coffee in much the same way. One of my favorite things is to pull up to the drive through at a coffee house and inhale deeply when the window opens. I could really just say "thank you" and drive away--not even needing the coffee.

  7. Eileen @ Ham Pie SAndwichesSeptember 8, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    So this is what needs to happen with all the big bags of dried chiles at the market! Thanks!

  8. Glennis-Can't Believe We AteSeptember 8, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Oh...I want some! LOL! I so understand the power of the aroma!! There's a particular malagueta chile pepper "sauce" that I've been trying to locate. Just a whiff from the bottle "sends" me! I've filled, and refilled it with vinegar, to the point that the peppers are becoming pale... No other brand quite smells or tastes the same. It's driving me crazy that I can't find the product any longer. I'm trying to tell my senses the other brands do just as well, but my nose will not be fooled! I think I'll go pick some of those bright red peppers in the garden for cascabels are ready right now! Thanks for the push Heather!

  9. What would I put it IN? By your enticing description, I thought the paste WAS the meal. I can see it in soups, BBQ, quesadillas, omelets… Let's just say I love smoked paprika and hot sauce. So your paste is the best of both worlds.

  10. Anything chili and smokey is right up my alley. I love this paste and would probably put it on my breakfast cereal.

  11. I had to giggle, because I look forward to opening new packages of coffee at home. I have my nose right up to the package as I'm pulling the vacuum seal apart to get that first amazing whiff!!

    I bet it would be fantastic as a rub on chicken...maybe mix it with a little vinegar first to thin it out!? Mmmm...

  12. This is simply beautiful! I only I can get my hands on some dried Chipotle chillies! Have been cooking all these while with RB recipes, and I have yet to find these! Would you believe that I have a list in my little shopping book that I carry with me wherever I'm out at any supermarkets? Dried chipotle chillies has been on the list from the beginning!
    I like all your suggestions for using the chili paste! And I'm also thinking about stir-fried seafood noodles with this, wow!

  13. yummy i was wondering what do you do with it, looks delicious and spicy!

  14. Mmm...I bet that would be a great way to use it, Joyce! I wonder how hard it would be to send some to you? I'd be happy to send you a package if you'd like me to. If so, shoot me an email with your shipping info and I'll try to get some to you ... hopefully they'd make it in time for you to still make something with Rick!! (of course, you can always cook with him...) ;P

  15. Me encantaaa el chipotle!! qué rico sabor verdad? me gusta!!
    Saludos, espero tu receta, estoy segura que será MUY buena!

  16. Yeah, I'd like that blended into a cream sauce for a white enchilada sauce. Nice.

  17. I didn't know what moritas were - very cool! So glad you taught me how to make my own paste - I"ll have to give it a go soon.

  18. What a great condiment to keep on hand!

  19. Joanne (eats well with others)September 9, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    You have achieved genius with this recipe for sure! I love sweet Thai chili sauce so I know this would be a huge hit for my taste buds.

  20. Moritas are smoked dried ripe (as in red) jalapenos, Natasha. There is a great South American shop (La Perola) in Kensington Market in Toronto that carries them.

  21. We love chili paste made with moritas! It's my favourite - an essential for hamburgers (as well as just about anything else).