Seasonal Chile Powder at Herbsaint

By Lisa Elbert | Will Blunt

By

Lisa Elbert
Will Blunt
Gulf Shrimp and Fish Ceviche and a Batch of Fresh Chiles at Herbsaint
Gulf Shrimp and Fish Ceviche and a Batch of Fresh Chiles at Herbsaint

Before moving to New Orleans and finding a job at Herbsaint, Rising Star Chef Rebecca Wilcomb got an early introduction to working with spices at Ana Sortun's Oleana in Boston. So when confronted with a less-than-satisfactory selection of chile powders, she decided to blend her own and go straight to the source of flavor: local farmers who have an abundance of chiles in the summer. 

Wilcomb's chile of choice is the criolla sella, a fruity, medium-hot, bright orange chile from Bolivia. Wilcomb dries about 40 pounds of criolla sella throughout the summer to last until the next growing season. She dehrydrates the chiles in a low oven over the course of 3 to 4 nights before grinding them in a Vita-Prep (each batch stays fresh for a month). To make her spice blend—that adorns her Gulf seafood ceviche, among other dishes—she a mixes a base of 60 percent criolla sella with cayenne, paprika, ají limón, California chile pepper, and cumin. It's a personal, ever-evolving expression of Louisiana cooking told through a devoted student of spice. 

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