Remember when we talked about chiles a few weeks ago?
Well, I have even more to tell you. About chiles! Can you believe that?
Fresh chiles, like the ones that we threw into some cheesy risotto last time, are super fun to cook with, but I actually prefer working with dried chiles.
There is an equally vast array of dried chiles available, which makes sense, since dried chiles are just fresh ones, but dried. Duh.
And dried chiles can be toasted, pulverized, and used to add dimension to so many different dishes. The process of drying a chile out really seals in and amplifies its natural flavor.
Some of the more common dried chiles that you will likely be able to find in your local market are ancho (which is a dried poblano chile) and chipotle (which is a dried, smoked jalapeno). Anchos are slightly sweet and mild — they are my go-to dried chile for adding a little heat to a chocolate dish. Chipotles, because they are smoked, have a very distinctive taste that goes way beyond just heat. Their flavor is very, well, smoky, and I will usually use them to flavor milder dishes such as beans or basic breads.
If you seek out the international section of your market, you may also be able to find some of the less common chiles that I am showing you today.
On my cutting board you can see the following chiles:
- Larger, New Mexican red dried chiles; these have a simple, earthy flavor with a moderate amount of heat — they are a staple in my kitchen.
- Guajillos, which are very common in Mexican cuisine and similar in appearance to the New Mexican chiles.
- Tiny, fiery chiles de Ã¡rbol — ooh la la, you will want to be careful with these chiles. They are super hot and I use them sparingly. They are available fresh and dried, but I find them dried most often; and
- Brown, wrinkly and delicious chipotles.
Believe it or not, once have selected, seeded and stemmed your dried chiles of choice, the thing to do to really make their flavor explode is to toast them.
I throw them in to a pan and toast away for just a few minutes on each side — they will be fragrant and their flesh will brown ever so slightly. Remove the toasted chile pods and allow them to cool enough to handle. Once cooled, you can snap then into pieces, discarding the stem and seeds, and grind the pieces into a powder using a spice grinder.
And there you have it: your very own chile powder. It is so good.
Do you know what else is good? Butter.
So good dried chile powder + so good butter = So, so great Chile Compound Butter ²
Chile Compound Butter
- 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. chile, ground (I used dried New Mexican red chile pods here and prepared them as described above: toasting, seeding, stemming and grinding to a fine powder. For reference, 2 New Mexican chile pods yielded 3 teaspoons of chile powder — you can save the extra chile powder for future use. You may substitute the dried chiles of your choosing or simply use a pre-ground basic chile powder that you will find in the spice section of your market.)
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp. cumin, ground
In a small bowl, use a rubber scraper to fold the spices into the softened butter (it is best to work with room temperature butter here, so that the mixing is not difficult).
Once the spices are incorporated, mix in the honey.
Transfer the compound butter to a container or mold of your choosing and chill until firm.
YIELD: approximately 1 cup of compound butter