Ingredients of Mexican and Southwestern Cooking - 2
CHILI: Chilies are native to the Americas. They have been known in North America for some time but are said to have traveled north by a circuitous route; apparently they found their way from Mexico to the Western world with Christopher Columbus, then to the East and finally back to North America. New strains of chilies are developed frequently, bred for hardiness, sweetness, hotness and so forth. But chilies are full of surprises; two chilies picked from the same plant may vary widely in hotness. To quench the fire of a too-spicy mouthful, do not reach for a water glass. Water will only spread the capsaicin (the compound that our tongues register as "hot") around. Instead, take a large mouthful of something starchy; corn chips, beans, bread or rice. Sometimes finding fresh chilies is difficult. This probably isn't a question of distribution, but of perishability. Canned and dried chilies are usually available.
The Following is a short list of peppers and what they are.
ANAHEIM CHILIES: (California Green Chilies) are slim between five and eight inches long and of various light shades of green. these mildly hot chilies are sometimes twisted in appearance. They are occasionally stuffed, but their flesh is thin and more fragile than that of the poblano chilies. The Anaheims cultivated in New Mexico-- where the name is Chili Verde--are reputedly hotter. A ripe red Anaheim is sometimes known as a chili Colorado. Anaheim chilies are dried and tied in wreathes (ristras) and ground and blended in commercial chili powder mixtures. They may be purchased in cans as "mild green chilies". These chilies were named after the town that at the turn of the century, was the site of a chili cannery.
ANCHO refers to a ripened, dried poblano chili.
CASCABEL CHILIES: True ones are scarcer than hens' teeth in most parts of the United States. Sometimes dried Anaheim Chilies are labeled "cascabel," but they are very different from the authentic item. Fresh cascabel chilies are hot and have a distinctive flavor. They are round and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Dried, the cascabel chili has a nutlike flavor.
CAYENNE CHILIES: are thin and tapered, three to seven inches long. Dark green (unripe) or bright red (ripe), the cayenne is incendiary and well known to Asian kitchens. The red ones are dried and ground to make cayenne pepper ("ground red pepper"). This product adds heat and just a little chili flavor.
Chipotle Chilies are smoked, dried Jalapenos with a very wrinkled appearance. Fresh jalapenos are vibrant green but they turn brown when smoked. Chipotles can be purchased loose (dry) or canned in Adobo sauce. The canned variety is especially convenient as it saves having to soak and soften them.
GUAJILLO CHILIES: (Mirasol Chilies) have a vegetal flavor that shines even though the drying process. Guajillos are orange-red, skinny and about two to three inches long.
JALAPENO CHILIES: range from hot to very hot. They are dark green, fat and about two to three inches long with a characteristically rounded tip. Watch out for the little ones, which are the hottest. Jalapenos ripen to red. Use them fresh or pickled.
PASILLA CHILIES: are hot and brown (almost black when dried, which is how they are commonly found.) They have a dusky flavor.
POBLANO: is the chili most frequently used for CHILIES RELLENOS. It is a suave dark green and ranges from mild to hot. Shaped like a long bell pepper, the poblano has a nice shape for stuffing.
RED PEPPER FLAKES: are just that; flaked, dried ripe chilies. Most red pepper flake mixtures are quite hot.
SERRANO CHILIES: are a sort of middling green, developing to brilliant red when ripe. Extremely hot (as hot as any chili), this chili is usually shorter and thinner than the jalapeno.