Using Peppers in Mexican Cookery
Peppers are an important part of Mexican recipes, whether you are using mild bell peppers or spicy chili peppers. Not everybody likes fiery hot food and not all Mexican recipes are very spicy. With a lot of Mexican food, you can choose how spicy you want it to turn out and modify the ingredients accordingly.
How to Roast Chilies
Roasting peppers is a great way to add flavor to a recipe. You can roast bell peppers over a gas flame, in an oven or on the grill until the skin is blistered and black. Put them in a black bag immediately and let them steam, so the skins can be taken off easily.
Freezing Peppers for Later Use
You can store roasted peppers easily. You might like to think about canning roasted peppers to preserve them or, if you are interested in freezing peppers, you can layer them between sheets of wax paper in a plastic container. This makes it easier to thaw out however many you need later.
If you are going to use all your roasted peppers in a week or so, you can put them in a container, cover them with olive oil, and refrigerate them.
Bell peppers are actually not used in many Mexican recipes but they are grown extensively there and exported to the United States. Cayenne peppers are long, thin chili peppers, and grow to three inches long. They are native to South America but not Mexico itself.
How do I Reconstitute Dried Chilies?
If you want to know how to roast chilies, the process is the same. To reconstitute dried chilies, simply soak them in hot water until they are flexible enough to work with.
Fresh Chili Peppers
The Poblano features in some Mexican recipes. This is a big chili pepper, which is about four inches long. It has a mellow flavor and is dark green in color. The poblano is used in stuffing recipes and is usually roasted and peeled before use.
Serrano peppers are the smallest type of fresh chili. They are narrow, firm, and slim and can be used instead of jalapeños. You can get Serrano peppers fresh or canned in vinegar.
Dried Chili Peppers
The flavors of peppers change when you dry them. A dried, ripened poblano chili is called ancho. These are used in Mexican mole sauce recipes.
Chipotles are dried jalapeños. These are smoke dried and usually packed in adobo. Guajillo peppers are common in central and northern Mexico. They are thin, long, smooth, and are very hot. Guajillo peppers are usually combined with other chili peppers and used in Mexican sauce recipes.
Mulato peppers are dried poblanos but unripened ones. They are darker in color than ancho. Pasilla is the dried chilaca chili pepper. These are hotter than ancho and go well with other chilies.
You will find chili peppers in many Mexican foods and because there are so many varieties of chili pepper, you can pick something that will complement the flavor of what you are making. Few recipes call for scotch bonnet or habanero pepper because they are so spicy. In fact, adding an unopened scotch bonnet to the pan while cooking something then removing it and throwing it away usually adds plenty of fiery flavor to the food.
Chilies feature in many authentic Mexican recipes but feel free to remove the flesh and seeds from the chili, halve it or omit it altogether unless you like hot and spicy food.
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