Long before Columbus mistakenly found the New World, the Nahuatl Indians were cultivating chiles in what is now Mexico. These people combined their native words for chile and smoke hence the Chi for the Chile preface and potle is appended for "pectli" which is the Nahuatl word for smoke. It makes perfect sense since chipotles are smoked jalapeños.

Chile nomenclature can become confusing because chiles have two names. One when in their fresh state, (here jalapeños) and one in their dried state, (here chipotles). But once we get past their names, let’s get to their tastes. The chipotle ranks right up in the top five of my all-time chile pepper favorites.

Imagine the bronchial choking quality of the air around the area where the chile producers ignited the smoking fire as thousands upon thousands of chiles were stacked up and turned into wrinkled, stubby, tobacco-like looking capsules. I wonder what happened to the birds that used to fly directly overhead!

I am attracted to flavors that hook me on several levels, and this baby hooks you good. Drying chiles lessens their raw heat and focuses the heat a bit more towards the sweet side. Smoking them creates a lingering, meaty resonance. Chipotles are often sold en adobo, or slightly pickled in a mild sauce. Canned chipotles en adobo are a convenient way to work with this chile. And it’s no canned compromise.

You can buy chipotles en adobo at many Latin grocery markets. The can is about the same size as a tuna fish can, only a little taller. Once you open them and smell them you cannot help but be intrigued. And there are so many uses for them.

Consider how robust a simple mayonnaise could become with a small addition of them puréed and stirred into it. Or punch up an Eggs Benedict with some in your Hollandaise. These are simple crossover ideas. In authentic Mexican cooking, these chipotles en adobo are the secret ingredient in many memorable dishes.

Chipotle Chiles. Fire and Smoke. Ancient techniques. Timeless flavors.

*Works consulted: Diana Kennedy’s, "The Art of Mexican Cooking."