Pasilla peppers. I love these chocolatey, raisiny peppers! They’re the key to the chili powder I use in all of my southwestern style goodies that I cook for families and friends. The recipe below really assumes you’re going to have access to some, and if you don’t live somewhere that sells it (tip! in many grocery stores in the US, there is a stand of Mexican spices, separate from the other spices. Here in Vegas the areas is normally all for a brand of spices called Tampico and sometimes I find it hidden away in the back or near the produce aisle), you can buy it off of Amazon here. Typically I’d link to a specific product, but as I don’t get my pasilla online I linked to a search that gave a lot of apparently good options. If you can find a store that caters to cultural foods you’re probably going to get better deals (second tip! buy your spices at Indian groceries to get dramatically cheaper, fresher spices!)
I intentionally only make enough for one or two dishes, as I make a batch every week or so. The chili powder is probably good for weeks or even months, but is really great that first week. I store it in a cool salt box I found on Amazon. The box has 3 shelves and has a nice smooth wooden feel. The other shelves I use for excess garam masala and leftover bbq rub.
Anyways, fresh chili powder is going to dramatically increase the flavor of your southwestern foods while letting you customize the flavor profile to your family’s needs. Want hotter? smokier? milder? You can do it, all you need is a base to work from. This is one such a possible base. 😀
- 2 1/2 tbsp ancho chile powder
- 2 tsp pasilla chile powder
- 1/2 tsp of chipotle chile powder
- 1 tsp of some sort of paprika, I prefer smoked paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder (I prefer californian style or at least a thicker grind style)
- 1/4 tsp cumin.
Looking at that ingredient list, you might be able to get an idea of what kind of flavors I like. Smoky, chocolatey, raisiny. Play with the ingredients. If you want milder, leave out the chipotle and put more paprika or ancho. If you like onion, replace half of the garlic powder with onion powder. You want as fresh as possible but not wet, they should all be dried and/or smoked spices.
If you bought all pre-ground ingredients, just mix them and use them in any dish that calls for chili powder. The following instructions are for those lucky enough to have access to whole dried chiles.
Preparing the Chiles
- Make sure the chiles are still leathery, if they’re brittle or crack when you bend them, they probably are too old and won’t add much flavor to your dish.
- Toast the chiles either in a skillet or in the oven. Personally, I just put the skillet at about medium-high heat until the chiles are smoking a little bit. If you are doing a lot, use your oven. Be prepared for any fumes and/or remove it at the first sign of smoking, don’t do this around birds without good ventilation.
- Wear gloves (if you’re sensitive to the oils at least, I don’t wear gloves, but I just make sure not to touch anything until I wash my hands!)
- Cut the top off of your chiles, then along one end so you can flatten it out. Scissors work great for this.
- Dump out the seeds and remove the stem pieces.
- Grind the chiles in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, remove any remaining big pieces, you’re done!
Well, there wasn’t really too much to this recipe. Buy the spices and mix them or grind the spices then mix them. Thats why I love this recipe, I can make small amounts as I need them. I don’t always toast the chiles, depends on my mood. Sometimes I literally grab a bowl, mix the spices, then immediately use them, often while something is cooking on the stove. Its quick and easy, though not as fragrant as when I have the time to toast the chiles.
From here I’m going to give some ideas on how I use them, and if you have other ideas or good combinations, please share them below!
Ground Beef Tacos
What I do, is get 93/7 grass fed ground beef, some cumin, my chili powder, and some tomato paste concentrate. My preference for the tomato paste that comes in a tube or in a glass jar. I don’t want the little cans as its wasteful.
- brown the meat by turning the stovetop high enough to brown the meat, then brown the meat until its about 75% cooked (pink will still show).
- make sure you break up the hamburger into its smallest bits, larger bits will keep the seasoning out and it will lack flavor.
- Once the meat is ready, I push the meat aside and make sure there isn’t too much fat. With 93/7, there shouldn’t be, but if there is too much fat I pour some of it out, I only want a small amount of oil at the bottom of the pan; a bit more than what you would use to cook eggs with.
- Push the meat to the sides to form a circle of just oil in the middle. If you accidentally poured out all of the oil or your meat just doesn’t have much oil, go ahead and put in a dollop of olive oil or safflower oil (I use safflower oil).
- Put the taco spices in that little oil circle you’ve prepared. For me, thats 2 tbsp of chili powder. 1 tbsp of concentrated tomato paste. 1 tbsp of cumin.
- I saute the spices in that little circle until they smell really great. This is crucial, the oil and heat will toast those spices and really become pungent.
- Pour in about half a cup to a cup of water and mix the meat together.
- Lower the heat to just enough to keep cooking off the water (3-4 on my stovetop), cover and cook until the mixture has become less soupy. If after 10-15 minutes, it isn’t dry enough, remove the lid. What you want to look for, is that the meat should be moist and moldable, but there shouldn’t be a liquid that might soak through taco shells.
- Season with salt to taste, spoon over tortilla chips, into taco shells, or whatever you like to use taco meat for.
Seasoned Refried Beans (rescued can beans)
Refried beans straight from a can are sad things nothing like what you might get from a good Mexican restaurant. Here is how I salvage them without cooking raw beans for 12 hours.
- Take a sauce pan, put in a solid at room temperature fat like pork lard (classic and my preference) or palm oil (don’t use a liquid fat or these will get an unpleasant oily sheen across them).
- Heat the sauce pan at a bit higher than medium heat while you open the can.
- Pour, slide the beans from the can into the pot. It might pop a bit if you let it get too hot, its fine, just be ready for it.
- Stir the beans until the beans and the fat blend well (or as Anna would say, incorporated).
- Add a tsp of chili powder, mix well.
- Add a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I like cheddar, but you can go with a white mexican cheese or whatever you like).
- Add enough water to thin the mixture to a consistency more similar to what you prefer. I add just a little at a time, mix, then add more. Its hard to undo excess water unless you open another can of beans.
Those are just a few ideas, I hope these ideas give your food a bit of a kick! Thanks everyone!