We’ve all had those meals where you just know someone put a lot of time into making it and you have to slow down a bit to appreciate the work they did. When you cook at home, you can throw something on the grill with some barbecue sauce on it and call it a day. Is that what you really want, though? You have the opportunity to make something really special, so why not take it and run with it? If your dinners are a little bit bland, expand your horizons and who knows? Maybe you’ll have your own cooking show by the end of the year
Even if you don’t want to be a celebrity chef, you can add some kick to almost any dish. One ingredient that has a lot of personality is the humble chipotle. These smoke-dried jalapeños are used primarily in Tex-Mex, Mexican and southwestern style recipes. They add a spicy heat to food that isn’t overwhelming. If you want to create dishes with some depth, smokiness, or a subtle earthiness, chipotles will do that, too.
Different varieties of jalapeño have their own size and level of heat. The variety produced in Chihuahua, Mexico, known as a “morita,” is the most common one used for chipotles. If you want to spice it up a bit, maybe it’s time you tried adding jalapeños and chipotles to your ingredient list. Chipotle chilies aren’t just there to make things hotter. The way they are processed gives them a mature, earthy kind of flavor that has a mild, smoky heat that isn’t as pronounced as that of a raw or cooked jalapeño.
You can find chipotles in powdered form, whole dried peppers, a concentrated wet marinade and “en adobo,” which is in a can. The smoked jalapeños are rehydrated, then mixed with vinegar, garlic, a tangy tomato purée, and other spices to make a brick-red sauce that brings the heat to the party with enough flavor to go around.
Due to their thick flesh, the chilis in adobo are typically used in slow-cooked dishes like soups, stews and braising liquids for large cuts of meat. Vegetarian dishes benefit from the tasty pairing of chipotles and lentils or beans. Best of all, chipotles are so versatile that they can be used in almost any kind of sauce, marinade, or glaze, too.
Making Better Food
When fast-food chili just doesn’t cut it, and you want a smoky, deeply flavored, real-deal Texas-style chili, chipotles are your go-to guy. They add richness and depth to any style of cooking. This is an ingredient you can get brave with. Add different kinds of chilies to the mix. Use some half and half to make a creamy version of the adobo. Throw in some really good mayo, like the one from Hampton Creek, and slather the mixture on an egg sandwich or a delicious burger. That mayonnaise, according to the Hampton Creek food startup page, is dairy free, soy free, non-GMO and gluten free as well. It’s made by utilizing plant substances like an egg replacement powder crafted from Canadian Yellow Peas. You could use it in a recipe for Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts or Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs.
Another Way to Make Your Barbecue Better
Your barbecue is going along great. You’ve marinated your choice of meats with a bit of spice and maybe some intense heat on those ribs. The black beans with adobo are going to be a great conversation piece and you’ve also got a nice plate of those kicked-up deviled eggs waiting in the fridge. But what about some other side dishes and desserts?
Most of us have had Cole slaw, salad or some sort of chilled, creamy dish that goes well with our barbecue. It’s a comfort food kind of thing, but it also makes sense to have something nice and cold to offset the heat of the meal, especially in the summer. Change it up and make your slaw unique by adding some Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper and a splash of buttermilk. Don’t just use green cabbage, either. Throw some red cabbage in there and some grated carrot and you’ve got more of a party than a pale side that gets kind of lost in the crowd.
Your mom’s potato salad was great. It served its purpose, but times have changed. Why make the same thing over and over when you can steal the show when you present your fully loaded baked potato salad. All you need are some good potatoes, fresh spring onion, some sweet, smoky bacon, a nice big pile of grated cheddar cheese, some mayo and sour cream.
It’s not hard to cook amazing food, but to make it more interesting and fun, scour the grocery stores and farmer’s markets for ingredients you may not have tried. Give them a chance and you might find yourself making some great memories.