Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Part 2 of Mexican Cuisine (Chiles) cont.

Let's continue on the subject of "Chile Peppers" in Mexican cooking.  We started yesterday with "Fresh" chile types.  It is this fresh chile that can be roasted to enhance flavor and remove the skin.

Roasting Chiles:  Some good chiles for roasting are Poblano, Anaheim and Jalapeno.  Wash and dry chiles first.  Then "Dry-Fry" them in a pan or over a flame.  For a pan, place chiles in a dry pan over medium heat. Turn them as needed as you blister and darken their skin.  Do not over do it and burn the flesh of the chile. Once all the chiles int the pan are ready, place them in a plastic bag and seal.  Let this sit for around 20 minutes.  Now remove chiles from the bag and peel off the skin.  You can use a pairing knife, but have the blade face away from you as you pull it towards you.  You just want to scrape the skin, not cut into the flesh. Once you have them peeled, you can proceed with however you plan to use them.  If they are needed whole but without seeds, make a small slit and cut or scrape out seeds with a pairing knife or small spoon.  If you want to blister the chiles over a flame, carefully place chile (s) over the flame and turn as needed to blister and darken.  Then proceed the same as above with the bag.

Re-hydrated dried chiles have enhanced flavor and many uses in recipes.  They are not hard to work with either.  So enjoy trying these in your cooking.

Re-hydrating Dried Chiles:  The first thing you do is clean the dried chiles by removing any dirt or seeds that can be seen.  Then place the chiles in a large bowl of hot water.  Let them soak for from 10 to 60 minutes depending on the chiles you are re-hydrating.  The thicker the longer they need to soak.  Their color should be restored, the water darkened, the chiles swelled up and softened.  Drain the chiles well before working with them.  Depending on your need, you want to cut off the stem and scrape out the seeds.  Use a sharp knife for this.  Now slice or chop if not using whole.  If pureeing the chiles, add a little of the soaking water to the blender or food processor to help make it smooth.

Handing Chiles:  Chiles are full of "Capsaicin" which produces the heat in the chiles as we eat them.  It also can irritate ones skin and other body parts.  I wouldn't touch my eyes just after cutting chiles up with bare hands.  From past experience, it burns.  Even some time after washing thoroughly, it will still be on your skin.  Because of this many people use gloves or oil their hands before cutting into chiles as they prepare a recipe.  Now when you do cut into a chile, the capsaicin is mainly in the seeds and white membrane.  To reduce heat in your dish, remove these.  The easiest way to do this is cut the chile in half, cut off the stem going a little ways into the chile itself.  Then remove the seeds and membrane.  If you like the heat, then leave them be.  For a fine dice, cut the halves into long thin strips.  Then turn and cut just as thin across the strips.  If you are cooking the chiles in the recipe, you may be able to chop them in larger pieces

Because chiles have a range of heat, each one can be different.  My brother always cuts a tiny little piece off and tastes it.  This way he knows how hot each chile is and can then adjust how much goes in the recipe.  It helps him control the heat of the end product.  Now if you do this or even when you are eating something that is too hot for you, try the following to cut the heat.  Dairy products such as milk and sour cream help. Another is a spoonful of sugar and I'm not talking Mary Poppins for taking medicine.  Sugar helps cut the heat too.  Don't drink a lot of water, soda, beer or such.  These liquids just help to spread the heat, not cut it.

Buying & Storing:  For fresh chiles, you want to look for firm and shiny skins.  Limp and dull ones are past their prime.  Store these in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to about 3 weeks.  The  dried chiles should be flexible and not brittle.  Store them in an airtight container in a dry cool place.  They should keep for up to a year.  For short term time (a few days at most) they will do well in the refrigerator.  Both the fresh and dried chiles will freeze too.  I put fresh whole ones on a sheet pan and place in the freezer.  Once frozen, I put them in a plastic freezer bag and return to the freezer.  This way I can take out just what I want or need. I do the same with the dried ones too.  Now once frozen, they are not just like using a fresh one.  They have become a little softer but they perform just fine in any recipe.

If you are ambitious and want to grind your own chili powder, start with dried chiles.  Soak the chiles and pat dry.  Remove stem and seeds if desired.  Then in a dry frying pan, dry-fry them until they are crisp.  In a mortar and pestle, grind into a fine powder.  Store in a dry cool place in an airtight container.  I'd use within the year.

Another surprise for you on chiles.  They are good for you too.  Besides vitamins and minerals for your body, they help in digestion and reducing cholesterol.  They help reduce heart attacks, rejuvenate the body, delay aging and help maintain metabolic rhythm of the body.  Not bad for a hot little chile.

Tomorrow's recipe is for "Chiles Rellenos" and this one has a potato and cheese filling.  You can put different fillings in these.  The typical one is for just cheese but meat fillings work well too.  This week there's a Friday recipe.  It's "Salsa Verde with Roasted Tomato" and should be put on the plate before placing the Chiles Rellenos on it.  I hope you have learned something from the 2nd installment of Mexican Cuisine. Well, enjoy the recipes and "Happy Cooking" until next week.  

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