Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chili Powder

Now here is an ingredient I use often. From making a BBQ sauce to chili and even a dry rub for ribs, a good chili powder is a necessity. I have used a number of supermarket varieties they seem OK. McCormick's regular Chili Powder is usually in the spice rack because it tends to me the most available no matter where I am in the country. But in all honesty it rates near the lowest of the OK list. Durkee is there as well. It's not as available as McCormick, but it does the job in a pinch. They really are my chili powders of last resort mainly because they are pretty mild and not a very sharp chili taste. McCormick's Gourmet Collection Ancho Chili Powder is much better as is Spice Islands. However I have found one that's better. Like most things, store bought is OK, but homemade is light years better.

Alton Brown had a Chili episode on Good Eats where he made his own chili powder. Here is his recipe:

  • 3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 3 cascabel chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 3 dried arbol chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Prep and cook:
  • Place all of the chiles and the cumin into a medium nonstick saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Cook, moving the pan around constantly, until you begin to smell the cumin toasting, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Set aside and cool completely.
  • Once cool, place the chiles and cumin into the carafe of a blender or spice grinder along with the garlic powder, oregano, and paprika.
  • Process until a fine powder is formed.
  • Allow the powder to settle for at least a minute before removing the lid of the carafe.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Now maybe being in Ohio is a problem, but I could not get the exact dry chilies. But I found that matters less than I thought it would. Ancho chilies are dried Poblanos and are a pretty mild pepper. Cascabels are a little hotter and Arbol chilies are very spicy. What I found is as long as you mix a mild, medium, and spicy pepper, nearly any combination works well. The last time I did this up I used Anchos, New Mexicos, and Cayennes and the chili powder that resulted made the best pot of chili I have ever made! I had enough to dry rub a brisket before smoking and the taste was amazing!

So like anyone who cooks, recipes are great, but technique is better. I heard a commercial from one of the Iron Chef's, Michael Symon, who said when you learn a recipe, you can cook one dish. When you learn a technique you can cook a hundred. While I might never make a hundred varieties of chili powder, Using a selection of dried chilies, along with a few other spices, and toasting the cumin seeds to bring out the flavor, and then grinding up all the ingredients made a terrific chili powder.

Pass me any other chilies you might try. I think the next time I see dried chipotles, I know what's going in my next batch.

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