Dried Chiles

Dried chiles exhibit an almost unbelievable range in the aromas and flavors they provide. Dried chiles must be softened in some way before use. This can be achieved by placing them in a hot pan for a few minutes, roasting them in an oven, or soaking them in hot water. Of course, you can also add them directly to soups, stews and sauces--the chiles flavor the dish and soften as they cook.

The following are dried chiles that Bobby uses in dishes at Mesa Grill:

Dried poblano, red with a spicy, raisin flavor. Example of dish: Fire Roasted Salmon with White Bean-Ancho Chile Broth

Look like large Bing cherries, medium to very hot with a nutty, woodsy flavor. Example of dish: Pan-Roasted Rabbit with Crushed Blackberry-Ancho Sauce

Dried and smoked jalapeño, brownish in color, with a fiery, smoky flavor. Staple in the Mesa Kitchen...often added to anything that needs more flavor.
Example of dish: Molasses-BBQ Ribs with Molasses-Chipotle Sauce

De Arbol
Brilliant brick red with an herbal quality. Very spicy. Most often used in powdered form. Example of dish: Pan-Roasted Rabbit with Crushed Blackberry-Ancho Sauce

Range in color from orange-red to blackish brown. Piney, slightly fruity flavor ranging in heat from mild to medium.
Example of dish: Red Chile Oil, Pistachio Mole Sauce

New Mexico Red
Similar to an Anaheim. It has a deep, roasted flavor and is not too spicy.
Example of dish: Red Chile Oil

When translated means "little raisin", also known as chile negro. Named for its raisin-like aroma and shriveled, black skin, it is medium-hot. Widely used in moles. Example of dish: Pistachio Mole

All dried chiles can be purchased by mail order from:

The Kitchen Market
218 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
TOLL FREE - (888) HOT-4433

Fresh Chiles:

A simple way to use fresh chiles is to mince them along with other flavoring agents (like garlic and onions) and sauté them all as a base for soups, stews, sauces; this mixture is know as a sofrito. Hot chiles are great in salsas, milder ones may be sliced into chunks and used in stews. Whole chiles are fabulous for stuffing. However when you use fresh chiles, always handle them with caution, they can cause severe burns to the skin.

The following are fresh chiles that Bobby uses in dishes at Mesa Grill:

Long, twisted red or green chiles, which taper down to a point. This chile is very hot with a slightly sweet flavor when dried. Fresh cayenne's have a slightly bitter taste and are very seldom used in cooking.
Example of dish: Cayenne Buttermilk Dressing

Fresh or dried, the hottest of all chiles, closely related to the Scotch Bonnet. This chile is full of perfumy, tropical flavors.
Example of dish: Duck Pancake, Grilled Halibut with Spicy Carrot-Mango Habanero Broth and Smoked Shrimp Cake in a Spicy Carrot-Mango Broth.

This chile resembles a serrano but is larger and more tapered. Inconsistent in heat, best to taste a small piece before using. Jalapeños can be made more flavorful by roasting them.
Example of Dish: Blue Corn Muffins

Resemble a green bell pepper but is pointy and very dark. The ultimate chile because of its incredible pepper flavor. Normally not too hot. Perfect chiles rellenos. Example of dish: White Corn Crusted Chile Relleno, Blue Corn Snapper with Fire Roasted Poblano Sauce

Turns from green to red as it matures. Very, very spicy and flavorful, not just heat. Used mainly at Mesa in sauces that need additional flavor and heat. Example of dish: Serrano-Tomato Relish in Black Bean Soup

Scoville Units - Determining The Precise Pungency of Chiles

Capsaicin is the heat source of chile peppers produced by glands at the junction of the chile's placenta (i.e. rib) and pod wall. The capsaicin spreads unevenly throughout the inside of the pod and is concentrated mostly in the placental tissue. Its seeds are not sources of heat as commonly believed. However, because of the seeds proximity to the placenta, the seeds occasionally absorb capsaicin during growth. Capsaicin is an incredibly powerful and stable alkaloid seemingly unaffected by cold or heat and retains its original potency no matter how long the chile is cooked or stored in the freezer.

In 1912, Wilbur L. Scoville, a pharmacologist with Parke Davis, the drug company using capsaicin in its muscle salve, Heet, developed the Scoville Organoleptic test. This test used a panel of five human heat samplers who tasted and analyzed a solution made from exact weights of chile peppers dissolved in alcohol and diluted with sugar water. The pungency was recorded in multiples of one hundred "Scoville Units."

The following are the approximate Scoville units and numerical ratings for the variety of chiles used at Mesa Grill from the official Chile Heat Scale. Keep in mind, these ratings are not completely accurate because chiles can vary in degrees of hotness due to the local conditions where they grow.

Chef's Note
Cooks are advised to pretest chiles by tasting a small amount to determine approximate pungency.

Chile Scoville Units *Heat Scale rating
Habanero, Scotch Bonnet 100,000-300,000


Cayenne 30,000-50,000


Chile de Arbol 15,000-30,000


Serrano 5,000-15,000


Jalapeño 2,500-5,000


Cascabel 1,500-2,500


Ancho, Pasilla 1,000-1,500


Bell Peppers 0


*Rating scale from 1-10, with 10 being the hottest.