Ancho Chile Paste

58 Comments

Having ancho chile pepper paste is a staple in my house, with as much Mexican and Southwestern cooking that I do. I might just need a couple of teaspoons, say, to season some sour cream or mayo, or about 1/2 cup of it to add to a soup, chili, meat loaf, or enchilada sauce. I always keep jars of it frozen, to use when needed. It also keeps refrigerated for about six months.

The name of this dark red stuff comes from the fact that ancho chile peppers are used to make the ancho chile paste, which makes sense. Ancho chile peppers are actually dried poblanos. I don’t know why they can’t just call them dried poblanos, but that’s just not how it works in the chile pepper world.

The flavor of ancho chile paste, made only with ancho chiles, is dense and intense. It’s essentially reconstituted chile peppers.

But you can use other dried chile peppers, and even include hot varieties for a little zing. I personally like to use a mixture of chile peppers. Today, I’m using anchos, plus guajillos and chipotles. I’m running low on my precious chile pepper paste, so it’s time to make more. Here’s what I did:

Ancho, Guajillo, and Chipotle Chile Paste

10 ancho chile peppers (large, stubby, dark and wrinkly in the photo)
8 guajillo chile peppers (long, narrow, red and smooth)
Handful of chipotle peppers, depending on your taste (short, dark wrinkly)

Shown below, from left, ancho chile peppers, chipotle chile peppers, and guajillo chile peppers.
_MG_0354
First you must remove the stems from all of the large dried peppers with a sharp knife, and discard. Then slice open the pepper bodies and remove the seeds.


Please be aware that even though these are not fresh chile peppers, they can still burn your skin and eyes.

Place the pepper body parts in the bottom of a large bowl.

_MG_0369

Add boiling water to cover the peppers. Place a smaller, weighted bowl on top to keep the peppers submerged for at least one hour so they can hydrate.

Set up your blender, and have a measuring cup and a rubber spatula on hand. Using tongs, grab all the peppers you can and place them in the jar of the blender. Save the water in the bowl.


Using the measuring cup, remove some of the beautiful pepper-tinged water from the top. Seeds and any kind of debris will be at the bottom of the bowl. Add about 1/3 cup of the liquid to the blender.

Purée the peppers, adding a little more of the pepper water if necessary. The mixture should be smooth, but not too liquid.

_MG_0408
If you have any pepper water leftover, use it in other dishes, like in a soup.

Place a sieve over a bowl. Scrape all of the ancho chile paste into the colander.

Using a spoon’s bottom, force the paste through the sieve. This process removes the chile pepper peels.
_MG_0418
Scrape the paste from the bottom of the sieve as well, and voila! Chile pepper paste.
_MG_0425
Place the paste in clean jars. Freeze, and thaw as needed.
_MG_0433
Note that this recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on much ancho chile paste you want! It’s the same amount of work!

IMG_2586
Also note that the chile paste will stain everything – your spatula, your sink, your countertop your clothes… You will have many orange spots if you don’t catch the spills immediately!

IMG_2625

Pasta Chimayo

25 Comments

There is a restaurant in Park City, Utah, called Chimayo. We’ve been going to it since it opened in 1996. Although I haven’t lived in Park City since I left for college, my mother still lives there, so we visit often. And I can’t think of a time when we didn’t dine at Chimayo.

Not only is the food exquisite at Chimayo, known for its “distinctive” Southwestern cuisine, it’s a dining experience that exhilarates all of the senses. From the furniture to the dishes, everything is unique. They have a website, if you’re interested, or plan on visiting Park City.

The restaurant remains highly rated even after all of these years, so it’s a real joy to dine there. Here we all are in 2012, with my older daughter and husband to my left, and my beautiful mother on my right. The guy on the very left of the photo is my husband.

a6213c133e461f5ebcff104c6f73bc5f

Unfortunately, there’s not much to see in the photo beyond the pewter water glasses, because we’d either not ordered yet, or had already finished dinner. But trust me, everything is topnotch at this restaurant, including waiters who are willing to take photos of your family.

I did fortunately have some other photos from this same dinner, starting with a Southwestern fondue on their menu called Queso Fundido, topped with roasted poblanos and chorizo, which was beautifully presented at the table.

5fe6d1a479924c97fc106ab88a4f1582

And my daughter’s entrée is a vertical stack of chipotle-glazed spare ribs. It was easier to eat than it looks!
ac151a19d493acbd14ff517768bc7bca

So why do I mention this restaurant, when most all of you will never get a chance to go? Simple. I created a pasta dish in their honor. They don’t know I did, but I did, calling it Pasta Chimayo.

I wrote in a post a while back that my husband and I absolutely love Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. Mexican food, for me, is something that I must have recipes for, because it is a very involved and complex cuisine that I fully respect. It’s way more complex than you’d think, actually, if your take on Mexican food is enchiladas and burritos. But Southwestern cuisine, I feel, is something that really can be made up. Because it’s a relatively new cuisine, with no rules.

I posted on inspired Southwestern cuisine a while back, and have been thinking of ways to help you change up recipes to make them Southwestern. As I mentioned, anything can be made Southwestern style, as long as you use the right ingredients. So case in point, I’m making a pasta recipe today, which one might expect to be Italian, but instead I’ve made it with a Southwestern twist. It’s an ancho-spiced pasta with black beans and spicy shrimp. I hope you like it!

Pasta Chimayo

Spicy Shrimp
1 pound of shrimp, shelled and cleaned
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves fresh garlic
2 teaspoons spicy paprika
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse the shrimp with cool water, and let them drip dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, place the olive oil, garlic, paprika, chipotle powder and salt in a small blender jar and blend until smooth.

pasta

In a medium bowl, toss the raw shrimp in the marinade.
pasta1

Cover and marinate the shrimp for 4-6 hours in the refrigerator. Overnight would be good as well. The only times I don’t marinate shrimp very long is when there’s an acid in the marinade, like citrus juice.

About one hour before the final preparations, remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and let them warm up slightly. Then place them in a colander to drain. Don’t rinse.

Pasta
1 – 12 ounce package corn pasta, or any spaghetti-type pasta you prefer
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
8 ounces canned goat’s milk
2 tablespoons ancho chile paste, or to taste
1 – 15 ounce can black beans, well drained
Fresh cilantro

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Cook just al dente, then drain. Set aside
cornpasta
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat – large enough to hold the pasta. Add the onion and sauté it for 4-5 minutes. You want it soft because there won’t be any more cooking time.
sw8

While it’s cooking, add the ancho chile paste to the goat’s milk and whisk together.
sw7

I use this kind of goat’s milk in a can, because it’s the only kind I can get. If you don’t want to use goat’s milk, or can’t get it, simply use a cream substitute. But I’d recommend adding some crumbled goat cheese to the pasta!
goatmilk
When the onion is ready, add the goat’s milk mixture and stir well.
sw9

Add the cooked pasta to the pot and stir gently until all of the pasta strands are coated with the creamy mixture.
sw99
Add the drained beans, and heat the pasta through.
sw11
Remove the pot of pasta from the heat and set it aside. But toss the pasta occasionally to help it to absorb all of the goat’s milk.
sw1

Place a grill on the stove over high heat. Add the shrimp. Don’t overcrowd them. And be diligent. They cook very fast.
sw5
After less than a minute, turn them over quickly using tongs. They should be fully cooked after 30-45 seconds.
sw6

Keep them warm while you give the pasta a turn in the goat’s milk, if there’s any remaining in the pot, and serve the pasta.

sw

Add the grilled shrimp and sprinkle the pasta with some cilantro leaves.
sw3

You can always add some crushed red pepper if you like things really spicy. I kept mine as is, which allowed the ancho chile pepper, the paprika, and the chipotle pepper to create the Southwestern flavor profile.
sw2

note: So many different ingredients could be used in this simple pasta, including red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and corn. And if you prefer, grilled chicken could be substituted for the shrimp.

Fruited Duck Breasts

37 Comments

With Spring finally here, I wanted to make something inspired by what my mother made once for Easter, which was a leg of lamb with a dried fruit stuffing. The lamb was rolled around the bready stuffing and served sliced like pinwheels, showing off the lovely bits of dried fruit.

Being that my husband won’t eat lamb, I thought I could make something similar using duck, since I’d just received four duck breasts from D’Artagnan. That way, I’d only have to eat four duck breasts instead of a whole leg of lamb, because he won’t eat duck either. Another sacrifice for my blog.

People tend to be a little fearful of working with duck, but it’s really no different than a working with a steak. Primarily, the rule is to cook the duck medium-rare, which also applies to steak. The cooking process is the same: some searing on the outside in a hot skillet, and then a few minutes at a lower temperature to get the inside cooked to the proper temperature. Medium rare temperature for steak, lamb, and duck is 125 degrees. I also set my steaks out for at least an hour at room temperature before I cook them.

One difference with duck is the skin. It’s really thick, which is why ducks can hang out in freezing cold water, I imagine.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m leaving the skin attached to the duck breasts. I like the presentation. But duck skin can be removed, diced, and cooked just like you would bacon, for resulting cracklings. These can be added to a sauce, or even sprinkled over the duck breasts or your side dish, like sautéed spinach, for added flavor and texture. The skins can also be rendered for the sake of duck fat, if that is desired.

Duck has a significant flavor, which is a plus because it can stand up to some serious seasoning. Some think the flavor is gamey, but I disagree with that. Of course, maybe I like gamey. Plus, it might depend on the source of your duck.

Duck is often served with berries or cherries in a sauce, because the fruitiness and sweetness pairs well with the deeper duck flavor. So today I’m making a sauce for the duck, using dried fruits.

To season the duck breasts, I’m using ancho chile paste, that I made with anchos, guajillos and chipotles. It has quite a kick to it, and will really shine with the fruit sauce accompaniment.

Duck can be served with just about any green vegetable, like asparagus or green beans, and for side dishes, a rice pilaf or roasted potatoes would be lovely. Since I have a lot of duck to eat in the next few days, I’m keeping it simple, serving my duck breasts with steamed asparagus.

In today’s recipe, I’m including a sous vide step, which means the final step for me is to brown the duck breasts only; the cooking is already done. The most important thing is to make sure that when you’re pan-frying the duck breasts that you don’t overcook them.

So here’s the recipe I created for the duck breasts. You’ll see how easy it is to cook duck after this recipe!

Fruited Duck Breasts

4 duck breasts, with the skin attached
Salt
Pepper
Juice from 1 orange, strained
Ancho chile paste*, about 4 heaping teaspoons
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pat the duck breasts dry, and place them on your cutting board skin side up.
duck44

Season them with salt and pepper generously. Using a sharp knife, slice diagonally into the skin only, making about 5 diagonal lines, then making 5 more diagonal lines, forming diamond shapes. Try not to cut into the actual meat.
duck55
Place the breasts skin side up on a platter. Then pour the strained orange juice over the tops.
duck33
Using a spoon, place a heaping teaspoon of ancho chile paste on each duck breasts and spread it over the whole breast.

duck22
Then divide the teaspoon of ground cumin between them.
duck11
Let the breasts marinate for 30 minutes up to an hour.

Prepare the sous vide set at 131 degrees F.

When the sous vide is ready, place two breasts each in two vacuum sealable bags and seal.
duck9
Add them to the water and mark 3 hours on your clock.

At the 3 hour mark, remove the duck breasts from the sous vide.

duck8

Remove the breasts from the bags and place on paper towels to drain.

duck7

Since sous vide meat can’t sit around at room temperature, you need to work quickly. If you’re not making the duck breasts to serve within the next hour, refrigerate them first.

Add a teaspoon of oil in a skillet. I’m using my cast-iron skillet. Heat it up over high heat and turn on the ventilation system, because the fat will smoke.

When the oil is just smoking, add one or two duck breasts at a time, depending how big your skillet is. I start them skin-side down.

duck6

After a good minute, turn it or them over, and cook for the same amount of time on the other side. Remember, I’m only browning the breasts, not cooking them through.
duck5

After you’ve browned all four duck breasts, slice them crosswise for serving.

Pour a little of the fruit sauce over the top, and pass the rest around at the table.
duck1

Because of the length of this post, my sauce recipe will be posted tomorrow!

* If you don’t own any ancho chile paste, and don’t want to make it, recipe here, you have a couple of options. One is to use ground ancho chile pepper. You could also include a little ground chipotle pepper for a little more flavor. Or, buy a little can of chipotle peppers that come in adobo sauce, and use the sauce. Stay away from the actual chipotle peppers for this purpose, but if you love them, you could always chop one up finely and add it to the resulting sauce.

note: If you’re not doing the sous vide step, cook the duck breasts as you would a steak, searing both sides, then letting the center reach 125 degrees. At that point remove them from the skillet and place them on a plate. Cover them loosely with foil and let them rest for 15 minutes. Then slice and serve.

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

29 Comments

Sometimes I end up with too many vegetables in my refrigerator. And when that happens, I make soup.

Case in point? I happened to have a lovely head of cauliflower that I didn’t want to go to waste, so I cooked it and made it into a creamy soup. Cauliflower has a lovely flavor that is so good on its own. But I couldn’t stop there with just a creamy cauliflower soup. I wanted it spicy.

So I reached for my handy dandy ancho chile paste. Every so often I make a large batch of it and store it in jars in the freezer. That way I always have some to use in recipes, like this soup. Immediately the soup became something altogether different – flavored with layers of chile peppers and lovely Southwestern spices. Fabulous. And so easy.

ancho

This is what I did, and you can do it, too!

Spicy Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken into florets
1 leek, cleaned, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Broth of choice, I used chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk, or any non-dairy substitute
3 tablespoons ancho chile paste, or to taste
2 teaspoon ground cumin

Place the cauliflower, leek, celery, and onion in a large stockpot, and cover with water or broth. I use chicken broth powder to make my chicken broth, so I opted to add the powder at the point when I blended the soup. If you use commercial chicken broth, that works just the same.
cau4
Bring everything to a boil, cover the pot, and then simmer until the cauliflower is fully cooked, about 20-30 minutes.
cau3
Place the cooked vegetables in a blender jar, and only add a little of the liquid. You can always add more later if you need to thin the soup.
cau1
Add the evaporated milk. Depending on the size of your blender jar, you might have to blend this soup in two batches, so use about half of the vegetables and half of the evaporated milk for each batch. At this point I also added my chicken broth powder.
cau2
Blend until smooth. Add the ancho chile paste and cumin powder, blend, and taste. You might want salt. If you do, start with just 1 /2 teaspoon. If you make the soup too salty, there’s no turning back!

I needed to add a little more ancho chile paste when I added the cumin, which is why you see more of it. It totaled aobut 3 tablespoons but if you’re unsure of how much to use, start out with just 1 tablespoon. Of course, it also depends how much soup you’re making. Just taste taste taste! It’s your soup, so make it according to your taste!
cau
Serve the soup hot. I added just a little grated Parmesan for fun.
ancho5

Some queso blanco or just plain goat cheese would also be fabulous with this soup.
ancho4

Sure, it’s easy to make a cream of cauliflower soup. But go a little crazy for a change! Add some ancho chile paste and spice things up. When I tasted the soup I realized I’d made the chile paste with some chipotle peppers as well as ancho chile peppers. They really added something to this soup.

ancho3

Nutrition Facts Widget Image