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Chiles Go For A Smoke

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Two of my favorite chiles to cook with are chipotle and smoked paprika. Perhaps the reason I love the smoky flavor they impart is that I am longing for days when my ancestors cooked their food over an open flame. Or maybe living in a city apartment I just miss a good barbecue now and then.

Both chipotle and smoked paprika start out as fresh chiles and then are dried and smoked. They each have emulsifying and thickening properties which make them wonderful for stews and braises.

Chipotle chiles start out as jalapenos but when smoked they change their name. Chil refers to the "pepper" and potle is derived from poctli, meaning smoked in the language of the Aztecs. They are grown and processed in the US and Mexico.

Paprika comes from Hungary and Spain but is also produced in Turkey, and the US. Generally Hungarian paprika is considered better quality than Spanish paprika, though Spaniards will probably disagree. In Hungary it is famously used in goulash and paprikash. But perhaps the most desirable paprika of all is smoked paprika which comes from La Vera in Spain. It can be "sweet", semisweet or hot and uses the pimenton or pimento chiles which are dried and smoked for about two weeks over oak embers.

Both chipotle powder and smoked paprika will lose their flavor over time. Only a buy a little and don't keep it longer than two years. You can find good quality chipotle and smoked paprika at most gourmet shops. If you haven't tried using these spices think of them as your new "secret ingredient". Add a pinch to your favorite recipes to really jazz them up. Some of my favorite ways to use either smoked paprika or chipotle are in:


* Barbecue sauces
* Chili
* Mayonnaise
* Risotto
* Deviled eggs
* Roast chicken
* Soups, especially Spanish garlic soup

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