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, lets
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 its no canned
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
Chipotle Chiles. Fire and Smoke. Ancient techniques.
*Works consulted: Diana Kennedys, "The
Art of Mexican Cooking."