Too Many Jalapeños?

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If you like to cook and garden like I do, then you probably grow a variety of chile peppers. It doesn’t take but a couple of pepper plants to keep a family stocked with fresh chiles, but I always plant too many. This is especially true with jalapeños, cause we like them.

So here’s an idea that might come in handy when you have jalapeños coming out your ears like I do. Dehydrate them!

I hold the peppers, stem-end, in my left gloved hand (disposable latex gloves are handy for this), and then cut uniform slices with a knife in my right hand. (I’m right handed.)

Place the slices on dehydrator trays, making sure they’re not overlapping.

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I place the heat setting on 118 degrees Farenheit. It typically takes about 24-36 hours, depending on the fleshiness of the chile peppers and the thickness of the slices.

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And take note – even though the jalapeños are dehydrated, they’re still very strong! And during the dehydration process, the air in your house will be chile pepper-potent.

After they’re completely dehydrated, let them cool completely, and store in sealable bags in the refrigerator.

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You can tell that I used green and red jalapeños in the batch I just dehydrated.

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Alternatively, if you don’t own a dehydrator, place the slices on a jelly-roll pan, without overcrowding, and put the pan in the oven at about 200 degrees. It should only take about 8 hours. Lower the heat towards the end – you don’t want any browning, just dehydration.

Either way you dehydrate them, they’re handy for soups and stews, chilis, beans, stuffed bell peppers, omelets, or this stir fry.

Here they are topping a summer zucchini and corn soup.

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Here they are on a chicken curry.

I hope you find dehydrated chile peppers as handy and versatile as I do! Having a dehydrator is also helpful if you have an abundance of cherry tomatoes!

Now, if you have a lot of jalapeños you can do what Debbie and David do from The Mountain Kitchen, which is to make their own chipotle peppers! If you weren’t aware, chipotles are smoked and dried jalapeños. Enjoy their beautiful photo!

Enchilada Sauce

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My enchilada sauce is a simple red sauce that is enriched with ancho chile paste and Mexican seasonings.

It is a rich and hearty sauce that I make to top black bean enchiladas, or just about any kind of enchiladas or burritos. It’s also good on meat, from chicken to ribs.

There are many authentic Mexican sauces in older cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine, as well as more recent cookbooks by Rick Bayless, who I consider the king of Mexican cuisine.

The problem with following those recipes is that they contain multiple chile peppers and other ingredients that I cannot get my hands on, so it does no good to use the recipes.

Because of this, I fall back on my “default” enchilada sauce, using home-made ancho chile paste. And it will taste different depending on the chile peppers used in the chile paste.

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Enchilada Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 26.46 ounce carton Pomi tomato sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Grindings of black pepper
2-4 tablespoons home-made Ancho chile paste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes. Turn down the heat if they brown too much. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.

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Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Mix in the cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper.

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Bring the sauce to a boil gently, then lower the heat and simmer the sauce gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until isn’t no longer “watery.”

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your black bean enchiladas by placing refried black beans and Queso blanco, or your choice of cheese on a tortilla. Roll up, place in a greased baking dish, and continue with the remaining tortillas.

Add the desired amount of ancho chile paste to the red sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, ladle the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Some people like them smothered in sauce, others, like me, like the enchiladas only partially smothered.

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Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

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Let the enchiladas set for about 10 minutes, then serve.

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I love a dollop of sour cream on my enchiladas.

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The sauce goes well with any burritos or enchiladas, with or without meat. And it’s fun to use different kinds of cheese in the tortillas.

The good thing about this enchilada sauce is that you can control the amount of ancho chile paste and other seasonings. If you want it smokier you can always add some ground chipotle pepper and paprika. But always use cumin and oregano if you want a truly Mexican-flavored sauce.

Chipotle Shrimp with Crema Verde

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The flavor of chipotle chile peppers is one of my favorite flavors – up there with garlic, cilantro, curry, pesto, and fish sauce.

Chipotle chile peppers are jalapeños which are dried and smoked. I don’t understand why they can’t be called smoked jalapeños, but no one asked my opinion. So chipotles they are.

You can purchase them whole and already ground. They also come in a can all plumped up in adobo sauce.


However you use chipotles, they add a unique, spicy smokiness to whatever food you’re preparing, whether you’re adding them to an enchilada sauce, seasoning flank steak, or spicing up a mayo.

Today I needed to make an appetizer with shrimp. I immediately thought of chipotle for seasoning – a fairly strong flavor that works with shrimp. Just for fun I also made a crema verde for a cool balance to the spicy shrimp.

Here’s what I did.
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Chipotle Shrimp with Crema Verde

Crema Verde
12 ounces crema or sour cream
2 ounces chopped green chiles
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and dried
Salt, optional

To make the crema verde, place the Crema and green chiles in a small food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.


Gradually add cilantro leaves, processing as you add them, until the whole bunch of cilantro has been incorporated into the Crema.

Cover and refrigerate overnight if you’re not going to use right away. However, serve at room temperature.
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Chipotle Shrimp
3/4 pound medium-size shrimp, cleaned
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile pepper
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil, as necessary

Make sure the cleaned shrimp are dry using paper towels. Place them in a large bowl and toss them gently in oil.


Add the chipotle, salt, and pepper. You can always season more after the shrimp are cooked.

Heat a little oil in a large, flat skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the shrimp in one layer, turning them over with tongs after only 1-2 minutes. The time will depend on the size of the shrimp. Typically they are done as soon as they turn from translucent to opaque and pink.

Cook the remaining batches and place the warm shrimp on a platter.
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Sprinkle more chipotle powder, or even ground sweet paprika if desired and serve with the crema verde.
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Besides being a fabulous and easy appetizer, the shrimp served over a layer of the crema verde, topped with a sprig of cilantro, would also be a wonderful first course to a southwestern-inspired meal.

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Ancho-Spiced Bloody Mary

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As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I was inspired to make an ancho chile pepper infused vodka, by the discovery of Ancho Reyes, an ancho chile liqueur. I wasn’t inspired to make a chile pepper liqueur, but a vodka, on the other hand, was really intriguing to me.

I proceeded to make the ancho, chipotle, and coffee flavored vodka, and waited one week. It was finally time for the unveiling.

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The vodka has a beautiful reddish-brown color to it, and had a nice chile pepper aroma. I decided to keep things simple, and just mix this home-made vodka with a bloody Mary mix I enjoy, which is called Zing Zang.

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So here’s what I did:

Ancho-Spiced Bloody Mary
To make 1 drink

Lime and Salt for the rim, if you like your bloody Marys salted
2-4 ounces of the vodka, strained
Your favorite bloody Mary mix
Spear of jicama, optional
Garlic-stuffed olives, optional

Run a slice of lime over the rim of the glass. Sprinkle some salt in a small plate, and dip the top of the glass into the salt.

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Then add your preferred amount of the ancho-infused vodka.

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Fill up the rest of the glass with the chilled bloody Mary mix. Actually, if you prefer, you can include ice before you begin making the drink.

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For fun, I added a spear of jicama.

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As well as a few jalapeno slices and garlic-stuffed olives.
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verdict: This was a surprisingly successful vodka experiment! The bloody Mary was fabulous. The next time I might add two more chipotle peppers, and definitely include coffee beans. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any other drink that this vodka would be good in, but perhaps some of you have some suggestions?

Ancho-Infused Vodka

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A while back on Facebook, which is so educational and such a good use of my time, I discovered a post on Ancho Reyes – an ancho chile-based liqueur! I had mixed emotions when I discovered this. First of all, I really wanted to try it. Secondly, I was wondering why I’d never thought of it.

I reposted the link to this liqueur on Facebook, and not surprisingly, my friend Richard from REM Cooks messaged me and wrote, “I wonder if I can make this?!!”

See? Facebook isn’t a total waste of time!

I thought I’d leave the ancho chile pepper liqueur to Richard. However, I talked to my husband about making an infused vodka with dried chile peppers instead. And surprisingly, he mentioned that it would be good in a bloody Mary!!! He doesn’t even drink bloody Marys!

Then I couldn’t quit thinking about this vodka or the Bloody Marys. So I made it. Here’s what I did.

Ancho-Infused Vodka with a Touch of Chipotle

1 750 ml bottle Voli coffee-infused vodka
2 ancho chile peppers
2 chipotle peppers

First let me say that I’ve owned this coffee-infused vodka for years. I’ve been too scared to use it seriously for a night time cocktail, for fear that I’d never get to sleep. I have no idea if it causes a caffeine buzz, but I don’t want to find out the hard way. I like sleeping. So, this vodka really needed to get used.

And what better vodka to go with a chile pepper flavor than coffee?!!! There are many versions of rubs for steaks that include both ground chile peppers as well as coffee powder, so I thought that the combination would be perfect. If I hadn’t used the infused vodka, I would have added a few crushed coffee beans to the recipe.

And the chipotles? They’re just my favorite flavor when it comes to dried chile peppers, and the smokiness will really enhance the anchos.

I thought about other ingredients like a cinnamon stick or a few allspice berries, but nixed them. Maybe for the liqueur, but not for the vodka. Especially for a bloody Mary.

I even thought about bay leaves and garlic, but decided to keep it simple.

So I got out the ancho chile peppers and the two smaller chipotle chiles.
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I removed all four stems, and then cut the peppers into strips.
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I placed them in a clean bottle.
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Using a funnel, I poured the coffee-infused vodka into the bottle.
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Then I closed her up and decided to store the bottle for one week. If the vodka is too chile-flavored, I can always “thin” it with more vodka, but I wanted the infusion to really count.
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In case you’re interested, here’s the Ancho Reyes website for the liqueur. There are even cocktail suggestions. But no bloody Mary! Stay tuned for that!