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Chipotles for a change
Dried smoked chiles add depth to any dish
(CNN) -- If you are looking to add a little heat to a dish, you might consider trying dried, smoked jalapenos. Chipotles, pronounced (CHI-POAT-LAY), may look a little unappetizing, but open them up and the shriveled peppers are packed full of rich flavor.
The chiles can be found in two varieties, the larger brownish color chipotle called meco, or the smaller reddish colored variety called morita. Chipotles can be found in most major markets, natural food stores or anywhere Latin food is sold.
In his book "Salsas that Cook," Chef Rick Bayless, co-owner of Topolobampo and Frontera Grill in Chicago, includes many dishes using chipotles, from basic tomato sauce to mashed potatoes.
Kevin Karales, managing chef for Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, says the chiles shouldn't be mistaken as mild flavored, since smoking and drying concentrates the flavor. The taste is described by some as chocolate-like.
While they are used in many dishes, Karales says chipotles are most commonly used to create a roasted tomato sauce called "al chipotle," which is then used as an ingredient in other dishes.
When cooking a sauce with chipotles, the first step is to clean and stem the chiles. Reconstitute them by soaking in hot water for approximately an hour. Last, remove the chipotles from the water, blend and strain before cooking. It is possible to buy canned chipotles that have already been reconstituted called "chipotle in adobo."
Other than cooking the chiles into a sauce, Karales says he sometimes uses the peppers whole and pickled. They are then stuffed with picadio, a filling of ground or shredded pork, tomato sauce, raisins or nuts.
When choosing the perfect chipotle, Karales says stay away from dried chiles that look broken, a sign the chiles are too old to use. The perfect chipotle should be a little pliable, although not too pliable, and should never be brittle.
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