Chilis play an integral part in authentic Mexican recipes and cuisine. That’s not exactly a family secret. However, part of the fun we have here at our Mexican food store and deli in Greater Vancouver is spent talking to our customers and readers about alternative ways to look at popular ingredients used in traditional dishes. Food should not be constrained by geography or by history.
In the past we have written about other ways to eat guacamole and other foods to eat with salsa and have received some very positive feedback. Today, we look at yet another famous Mexican ingredient, and apply a few twists.
3 Alternative Ways to Cook with and Eat Chilies
1. Stuff Jalapeños with…Whatever
You’ve certainly heard of stuffed bell peppers (common) and traditional stuffed poblano peppers in Mexican cuisine but many people don’t realize that you can get really creative with the smaller counterpart jalapeños. When not too hot (learn how to check jalapeño hotness here) these popular peppers can be used as a great appetizer or hors d’oeuvre when stuffed with a wide variety of culinary concoctions. One stuffing in particular that we know is a big hit is created by mixing 8 ounces of soft cream cheese, 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 pound of cooked ground Italian sausage together until a mashed consistency is left. Stuff them into an appropriate number (based on how stuffed you want them to be) of individual hollowed out (removing the seeds) jalapeño peppers. Proceed to bake them in a pre-heated (425 degrees F) oven for 20 minutes, cool, and serve. This is just one of many easy to follow tips to stuffing jalapeños.
2. Jalapeño Jelly
We promise not to make this just about jalapeños, but we would be remise not to include one of the tastiest ways to consume peppers under the guise of a sweet jelly spread. The recipe also calls for bell (minced) peppers and cayenne (powdered) pepper so there is more diverse inclusion here. Jalapeño jelly is surprisingly easy to make considering how sophisticated the end-result is. To make approximately 6 small jars, gather the following ingredients:
- 3 minced green bell peppers
- 2 (4 oz) cans diced jalapeno peppers
- 1.5 cups distilled white (or cider as an alternative) vinegar
- 6.5 cups white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 (6 oz) bottle of liquid pectin
- 5 drops of red (or green depending on your aesthetic goals) food coloring
Once you’re prepped, combine peppers, vinegar, sugar, and cayenne pepper into a large, stainless steel saucepan. Cook over medium high heat while stirring frequently until the mixture reaches a boil. Add the pectin and stir. Boil for 5 more minutes longer (stirring frequently) and mix in the food coloring towards the end. Skim off the layer of foam and remove from the stove. Scoop the jelly into clean/sterilized jars, seal and then process in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes. Put the jars in the fridge (tastes amazing when cool) and invite guests (or keep it all to yourself).
3. Dehydrate and Turn them into Pepper Flakes
Bought a big bushel of peppers (see image above) on a whim at your local market and are at a loss of what to do with all of them? Why not turn them into pepper flakes that can be used to season dishes for the year (or more) ahead? Follow these steps to drying your hot peppers:
- Cut the peppers into quarters, with the flesh facing outward for faster (and more even) drying
- Place the peppers on parchment paper, on a cookie baking pan
- Pre-heat the over and dry peppers at “mild” 200 degrees F (keep a close eye on them) for 1-3 hours (allowing your inspection to be the gauge)
- Remove and proceed to crush the dried peppers
- Using a coffee-grinder or food processor, select the appropriate setting to turn the dried peppers into flakes (or a finer setting to grind some of them into chili powder)
- Store in a glass jar away from sunlight.
Stay tuned for more culinary concepts and ideas from our Mexican food store and deli. Until then, we welcome all Vancouver area residents and visitors alike to stop by and say hi (and grab a bite to eat) anytime.