These bright-red dried chile de árbol (tree chile) are slender, pointed, and about four inches long. These chiles are really--but really--picante. Soak, toast and liquefy them to use in salsas, or dry-grind them to powder, then dust the chile, along with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of jugo de limón (lemon juice) onto raw fruits and vegetables. Start with just a little, though, till you know how much heat your palate will tolerate.
Dried and smoked, the chile jalapeño becomes the chile chipotle. It's one of the spiciest of Mexico's dried chiles, and one of the most flavorful. Buy it at a market as you see it in the photo, or buy it en adobo (a spice mixture) or en escabeche (pickled). You'll find canned chile chipotle at most Latin markets.
The chile morita will remind you of the chipotle because of its smoky fragrance and very spicy but sweetish taste. Some say the morita is the last of the mature jalapeño crop to be harvested (and therefore smaller than the earlier harvest); others say it's actually a smaller variety of chile jalapeño.
Reconstituted by soaking and toasting, the familiar chile ancho is used for preparing salsas and many other common dishes. The mature fresh chile poblano is the dried ancho. To make sure you are buying chile ancho and not chile mulato--the two are often confused and/or mislabeled--slice open one of the chiles and hold it up to the light. As the light shines through the chile, the ancho glows red, the mulato brown.
Chile guajillo, reddish-brown, flat, and about four inches long, is one of the most commonly used Mexican dried chiles. Indispensable for preparing Jalisco's signature pozole rojo, the guajillo is also an ingredient in moles, adobos, and salsa picante. Here's a recipe for Mexico Cooks!' favorite mushroom appetizer, champiñones al ajillo:
Champiñones al Ajillo estilo Mexico Cooks!
Mushrooms in Garlic/Guajillo Sauce, Mexico Cooks! Style
1 lb good-size fresh white mushrooms
4-6 chiles guajillos, leathery but flexible
4-6 large cloves of garlic
Minced flatleaf parsley
Olive or vegetable oil
Sea salt to taste
Remove the stems from the chiles. Shake the seeds out through the stem opening and discard. Bring the chiles to boil in a pan of water. Turn off the heat and soak for about 30 minutes.
While the chiles are soaking, clean the mushrooms and cut the stems off, even with the caps.
Drain the chiles and pat dry. Cut them into 1/8" slices across their width.
Mince the garlic.
In a 12" skillet over medium heat, sauté the garlic in oil just until it begins to soften. Add the chile strips and sauté for a few minutes more. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender. Sprinkle with minced parsley, add sea salt to taste, and toss very briefly. Plate and serve.
Serves 3-4 as an appetizer.
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