Ingredient Spotlight: Chipotle Chile Peppers

Please meet our newest ally in our on-going quest to find more ways to sneak smoky flavors into our dishes! Chipotle peppers are actually jalapeños that have been smoked and dried, giving them an intense flavor and rich smokiness. How do you use chipotles in your cooking?

You can find chipotle peppers in three different forms: dried whole, ground into a spice, or packed in adobo sauce. For the purest flavor, stick with dried whole chipotles or chipotle powder. We almost consider chipotles en adobo to be a completely separate (though equally delicious!) ingredient since the adobo sauce contains lots of different spices, vinegars, and tomatoes.

Chipotles are pretty darn spicy! Soak whole dried chiles in hot water and then remove the seeds and as much white membrane as possible. Most of the chemical that sets our mouths on fire is in these seeds and membranes. You can be add them back into your cooking a little at a time to control the heat. Use chipotle powder and minced chipotles en adobo very conservatively at first and add more as you like.

Of course, the real draw for us is the smoky flavor. Just a little chipotle in any of its forms makes dishes taste like they've been roasting over hot coals for hours. Soups, sauces, marinades, vinaigrettes, egg dishes, and pasta salads all benefit!

Here are a few recipes with chipotles to tempt your taste buds:

Giant Chipotle White Beans from 101 Cookbooks
Zuni Rolls with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce from Epicurious
Avocado Chipotle Burgers from Barbeque Lovers
Chipotle-Orange Pulled Pork from the LA Times
Chipotle Flourless Chocolate Cake from Simply Recipes

What other kinds of recipes do you recommend?

Related: From the Spice Cupboard: Smoked Paprika

(Image: Flickr member jasja dekker licensed under Creative Commons)