Cruising the aisles in a local Latino market some years ago, I spied Frida Kahlo, sitting on a shelf.
I steered my grocery cart in for a closer look. Not Frida after all, I realized, though she holds the kind of mythic place in the art world that Elvis holds in the music world, and people claim to see Elvis in the supermarket all the time.
No, it wasn't Frida. 'Twas the lovely señorita on a can of La Morena chipotle peppers in adobo sauce who had caught my eye.
Chipotles (pronounced chee-POT-lays) are smoked jalapeño peppers, originally from Mexico and used extensively in the cuisines of Mexico and the southwestern United States. The husky flavor of the chile hints of chocolate and coffee, and the adobo sauce, originally used as a preservative, typically contains tomato puree, paprika, salt, onions, oil, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and oregano.
In the hands of a creative cook, chipotles in adobo spice up tacos, salsas, even molés. For me –- not a pork person -– the smokiness of the chipotles takes the place of ham hocks in bean soups and stews.
If you prefer smoke without fire, scrape the seeds and ribs from the chipotles in the same careful way you'd approach a fresh chile pepper. Wear gloves, don't rub your eyes, and wash your hands after handling hot chiles.
Store unused chiles in a plastic container in the refrigerator; they will keep for months. And when you've used all the chiles, save the leftover adobo sauce. My friend Julia of Grow. Cook. Eat. gave me this idea: mix 1 tsp of adobo sauce with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, a tsp of chopped fresh cilantro, and a bit of chopped sweet onion, to make a spicy tartar sauce alternative that's great on everything from crab cakes to turkey burgers.
Spicy Sunday skirt steak
Grilling the steak accentuates the smoky flavor of the chipotles, but this recipe tastes great made under the broiler, too. Serves 6.
2 chipotle peppers in adobo
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
3 Tbsp brewed coffee
1-1/2 Tbsp honey, or more to taste
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
1-1/2 lb skirt steak
2 green peppers, sliced in 1-inch slices
2 large onions, sliced in 1-inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine first 10 ingredients in a blender, and process until well incorporated. Place skirt steak in a flat, high-sided, nonreactive (glass, ceramic or stainless steel) dish, and pour on the marinade. Turn the meat a few times to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
Heat grill to high heat. Remove steak from marinade and dry. Brush grill lightly with vegetable oil. Grill steak for 5 minutes per side. Let meat rest before slicing. While the meat is resting, toss peppers and onions with olive oil, and cook on the grill until evenly charred. Serve with sliced steak, with salsa and warm tortillas.
Other recipes that use chipotle peppers in adobo:
Chipotle chili, from Cooking with Amy
Avocado enchiladas with smoky chipotle sauce, from Baking and Books
Chipotle-lime glazed shrimp, from Ezra Pound Cake
Chipotle chickpea salad, from A Veggie Venture
Chicken in chipotle wild mushrooms sauce, from Poor Girl Eats Well
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