This last year my friend’s Jeff and Peter made chili for us when we were up at the cabin skiing. This chili was all about actual chilies and it completely changed the way I think about chili. This chili was made with the simplest ingredients: dried chilies, onions and beef. The flavor was direct, rich and deep. There were no beans or anything else to muddle it up. I’ve started to experiment with these ingredients to come up with a perfect recipe. The first big hurdle to get over is buying dried chilies. I’ve always felt really intimidated by the bags of dried chilies at the market. There are so many types I wasn’t quite sure where to start, so I’m just going to have to figure it out. I found a simple resource to sorting out the chilies. I’m sure this list of chilies with their pictures is kind of limited, but I liked it because it was so simple.
I purchased three 4oz bags of chilies: guajillo, hot new mexico reds and mild new mexico reds. To use the Chilies they need to be reconstituted and then puréed and pushed through a sieve to remove the outer skins. This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not. I cut the tops off of the chilies and then emptied their seeds out. Using a knife I sliced the chilies open and opened them up flat. I placed the chilies in a heat proof bowl and covered them boiling water. I also put a small plate over the chilies to make sure they were submerged in the hot water. They need to soak for about 30 minutes. I used this time to get working on the other parts of the chili.
After the chilies have soaked for thirty minutes take them out of the water and put them into a food processor or blender to puree them. Be sure to keep the water that they’ve been soaking in because you will need add some of it to the food processor when your puréeing the chilies. I let the food processor run for a couple of minutes until the chilies looked really smooth. I placed a fine sieve over a small bowl and used a spatula to push the puree through the sieve. I was surprised by how many skins are left in the end. You really don’t want to skip this step. On an earlier batch I thought I could get away with just pureeing the chilies and skip the straining, but the final product just wasn’t very appealing because you can feel the plasticy skins in your mouth no matter how finely they’ve been puréed.
I was kind of surprised when I tasted the puree. In my mind I was expecting a hot searing sauce like Adobo, but in reality it was mild, sweet and fruity. I think it would be a really fun experiment to try different combinations of chilies and see how the puree changes. I think that will help me sort out their flavors.
The chili turned out great. I'm still working on a final recipe. I want to do a couple more test to get it just right. Every year at the county fair they have a chili cook off. If I get my recipe sorted out I think I should enter. As a side note Peter bought some dried sweet corn that we used to make spoon bread. It was great. The kernels were pretty large so I pulsed them in the food processor first. The spoon bread had a much more dynamic flavor than when I use plain cornmeal.