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Dried Chili Peppers (c)2012

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with dried chiles during winter:

1.  Chocolate Dessert

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to cook something special with chocolate and chile. Later this week at la Domestique, you’ll find a recipe for Boca Negra (chocolate cake with dried chipotle chiles) I discovered in the book, My Sweet Mexico, by Fany Gerson. It’s a simple semisweet chocolate cake with citrus notes from orange and the fruity dried chipotle. Achingly rich and moist, like a flour-less chocolate cake (only 1 1/2 tablespoons flour), Boca Negra refers to the black mouth you will have when you’re covered in chocolate after eating the cake. I also found a recipe for Chile Chocolate Almond Bark with Salt Crystals in Salted by Mark Bitterman that’s vegan friendly. Melted dark chocolate (70% cacao) is melted with dried Thai bird chiles or piquín chiles and poured over toasted almonds. A sprinkling of flour de del is the finishing touch.

2.  Harissa

Harissa is a ubiquitous hot sauce in Africa, most popular in Tunisia where the cuisine is famously spicy. Often times you’ll see recipes including red bell pepper, but according to Herbs & Spices: The Cook’s Reference, it’s most often made with dried chilies. Marcus Samuelsson shares a recipe for Harissa in The Soul of a New Cuisine. Garlic is cooked in olive oil until golden, then the pan is removed from the heat. Ground caraway, chili powder, ground coriander, salt, and chopped fresh mint are added to the oil. Marcus Samuelsson uses Harissa to coat cubed lamb meat before it’s seared and served in a pita with chickpeas, tomatoes, and olives. However, Harissa is traditionally served as a condiment for Couscous with Seven Vegetables.

3.  Canary Island Red Pepper Sauce (Mojo Rojo)

José Andrés wrote about the Canary Islands’ historical role in his cookbook, Made in Spain,  as being the last port between Spain and the Americas. This string of small islands off the coast of Northwest Africa was a melting pot of cultures. As a result, African Harissa morphs into Mojo Rojo, a dried red pepper sauce made with pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), dried guindilla pepper, garlic, cumin seeds, olive oil, salt, and sherry vinegar. While Harissa has an earthy and fruity flavor, Mojo Rojo is more pungent and piquant. My favorite way to enjoy Mojo Rojo is as an accompaniment to José Andrés’ recipe for Wrinkled Potatoes, Canary Island Style. The potatoes are cooked in salt, shriveling into tender goodness. You’ll find a la Domestique post devoted to this recipe, A Spanish Inspired Happy Hour, from last summer.

4.  Indian Curry

According to The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, the word curry comes from the south-Indian word kari, or sauce. It’s a blend of spices that varies in India from region to region and family to family. Curry is a hot, spicy, aromatic, pungent, sweet, earthy mix of spices like chili pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, paprika, anise, mustard seed, coriander seed, and others. You can buy curry spice blends, make your own to keep in the pantry, or just combine the spices as you make the dish. The India Cookbook, a huge volume of 1000 Indian recipes, includes many curries. Veinchana Royyaalu (Curried Prawns/Shrimp) is prepared by marinating the shrimp in ginger and garlic paste with turmeric and lime juice. Onions are sautéed in oil with cardamom, cloves, aniseeds, chili powder, and ground coriander. Toss in tomatoes and the marinated shrimp, simmering for just a few minutes until cooked through. This recipe for Goan Shrimp Curry uses a combination of dried red chilies and jalapeños to add heat. I’m a big fan of vegetable curries, which are flavorful and filling for a meatless Monday supper. This Creamy Pumpkin and Cashew Curry gets its heat from dried chiles de árbol and luxurious body from coconut milk.

5.  Mexican Mole

Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce served over chicken. It’s savory, dark, and has great depth of flavor from stewing together onion, garlic, dried and toasted chiles, sesame seeds, aromatic spices, and Mexican chocolate. When preparing mole, the cook devotes a lot of time to developing flavor in the ingredients by toasting spices, frying and soaking dried chiles, and reducing the sauce. According to Rick Bayless, in Mexico, mole is served with chicken roasted over a brick fire pit called a hornillo. In Fiesta at Rick’s, the chef writes that there is no such thing as an easy mole, time must be devoted to developing the sauce. However, he shares a recipe for “Easy” Slow Cooker Mole with Grilled Chicken that lets the crock pot do much of the work for you.  His mole base is made from dried mulato, ancho, and pasilla chiles toasted in oil with garlic, almonds, and raisins. Canned tomatoes, Mexican chocolate, and charred bread thicken and enrich the sauce while spices like cinnamon, black pepper, anise, and cloves infuse the sauce with flavor. Leave the sauce to simmer in the crock pot for 6 hours and then puree it into a velvety, thick cloak for grilled chicken. It’s a satisfying meal for a snowy winter day.

6.  Broccoli with Chile Dressing

One of my favorite vegetable preparations of all time is broccoli (or broccolini or rapini) with the heat of chili peppers, pungent garlic, and salty anchovy. Ever since I saw Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall prepare Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Anchovy and Chile Dressing, I was hooked. The recipe can be found in his River Cottage Cookbook. A can of anchovy fillets, olive oil, garlic cloves, thyme leaves, basil, crushed red pepper flakes (or try Aleppo pepper flakes like I used last week), Dijon, and red wine vinegar are combined in a blender and poured over steamed broccoli (or kale) as an appetizer. The recipe makes more than enough dressing, and I like how Hugh suggests using the excess as a “gentleman’s relish”, tossed into pasta, spread onto toast, or as a garnish for scrambled eggs.

7.  Roasted Squash with Dried Red Chillies, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Goat Cheese

I came across a recipe for Whole Roasted Cricket Ball Squash in Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Jamie at Home, which I love for the combination of fruity dried red chili and umami infused sun-dried tomato. Jamie hollows out whole gem or small acorn squash and seasons it with dried oregano, coriander seeds, and cinnamon. Sun-dried tomatoes and dried red chillies go into the hollowed out squash with a drizzle of the sun-dried tomato oil before roasting in the oven until tender. Serve one squash per person topped with lemony arugula salad and crumbly goat cheese. For the recipe and a video of Jamie cooking it, visit Rachael Ray’s site.

8.  Thai Sweet and Sour Soup with Prawns

Thai Street Food by David Thompson is packed full of photographs depicting the gritty, hectic, colorful streets of Thailand and its food vendors. Though it may look like just another coffee table book, David Thompson shares flavorful recipes with plenty of history and information on the local culture. Reading about the importance of the chili pepper in Thai cuisine, I noticed that recipes didn’t just use one dried chili, instead dishes incorporate the flavor of dried chilies, fresh ones, and chili powder. It’s a great example that the flavor of chilies varies so much in these different forms, adding bright fruity notes; deep, earthy, essences; and the ever present heat. The recipe for Hot and Sour Soup with Prawns is made with dried long red chilies, fresh bird’s eye chilies, and chili powder. The broth is a combination of chicken stock, tomato, lemongrass, ginger, shallot, mushrooms, and coriander root.Each serving bowl is filled with a splash of lime juice, fish sauce, and fresh coriander before the steaming hot shrimp soup is stirred in. It’s complex, with a deep, spicy heat that builds with every slurp.

9.  Slow-Cooked Carne Adovada with Hominy

In The Heart of the Artichoke, David Tanis devotes a chapter to the pleasure of cooking with chilies. He describes the recipe for Slow-Cooked Carne Adovada with Hominy and the New Mexican attitude as a “celebration of dried red chiles.” The large, leathery dried red peppers are toasted in a hot skillet, softened in water, then ground into a paste. Onion, garlic, coriander seeds, and bay leaf simmered in the chile puree and poured over a large pork shoulder which is baked for a couple of hours until it falls apart. I love the sweet, corny flavor of hominy and couldn’t think of a better accompaniment.

10.  Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits

According to the guys who wrote Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, chipotle is perfect for adding “spice and smoke” to food. These traditional buttermilk biscuits are made with cheddar and chipotle powder (which you can make by pulverizing dried chipotle peppers). Buttery and soft, the biscuits are perfect comfort for the cold days of winter. In the book, Matt and Renato suggest serving the biscuits with a big bowl of tomato soup, which I think is a fantastic idea!

What is your favorite way to cook with dried chilies? Let me know in the comments section. Click Here.