A popular way of preserving chilies. Drying
changes not only the color, texture and flavor of chilies but sometimes
even changes the name. Dried jalapenos are called chipotles and dried
poblanos are known as ancho chilies. Dried chilies are most often used for
making sauces. Little ones can be pureed whole while larger ones, such as
ancho chilies, are usually toasted to bring out their flavor, then
reconstituted in warm water. They are then pureed and strained before
To choose - look for dried chilies
with an even color. Hold them in your hand and bend them gently. Dried
chilies should be pliable, with no signs of cracking. Any light orange
patches indicate that bugs got to the chilies before you did.
To clean - wipe off any dust with a
damp cloth. For very dusty chilies with deep and hard-to-reach crags,
rinse briefly under running water.
To seed and de-vein - use your hands
or scissors, tear off the stem and then rip open the chili lengthwise.
Loosen the seeds and shake them out. Tear out the light-colored veins.
To dice neatly - Using scissors, cut
the seeded halves into strips. Snip across the strips into squares.
To toast - toasting dried chili
peppers intensifies their rich flavors. Tear the chili into large, flat
pieces and place in a skillet over medium heat. Press the chili pieces
flat with a spatula for 5 to 10 seconds. Turn over and toast the other
side 5 to 10 seconds, pressing flat. The chilies will soften and turn
leathery, but remove them before they have a chance to blacken and burn.
To soak - place dried chilies (whole
or pieces, toasted or un-toasted) in a bowl and add boiling water to
cover. Let soften 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. The soaking liquid is often
discarded because it can be bitter.