'The Mexican Chile Pepper Cookbook' offers recipes featuring this spicy star - Albuquerque Journal

‘The Mexican Chile Pepper Cookbook’ offers recipes featuring this spicy star

 

“The Mexican Chile Pepper Cookbook” by Dave DeWitt and José C. Marmolejo

There’s a new cookbook out that is bound to capture the imagination – and the tastebuds – of many New Mexicans.

It’s “The Mexican Chile Pepper Cookbook: The Soul of Mexican Home Cooking” by Dave DeWitt and José C. Marmolejo.

The introduction reveals two of the captivating features in the book.

One is the “wide selection of recipes in which chiles are the principal ingredient, including chile rellenos, salsas and pickled chiles.”

(Pickled chiles?)

Dave DeWitt

Another feature is the book’s regional emphasis on hot and spicy recipes – and some mild – from most of Mexico’s 32 states.

So prepare yourself to learn about the 64 varieties of chiles from around the country. Readers will benefit from the five-plus-page glossary of chiles at the back of the book.

The authors advise, however, that chile nomenclature in Mexico can be confusing because different names are given the same chile in different regions.

What’s more, they caution readers that some varieties have multiple names and some names describe multiple varieties.

Here’s a handful of listings from the glossary:

⋄ Achocolatado. Another name for a pasilla, a long, then, mild, dark chile used in mole sauces. Grown mostly in Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Jalisco. Has flavor overtones of chocolate and raisin.

⋄ Chilcoxle. A dried yellow chile used in the mole amarillo of Oaxaca. Moles are popular thick chile sauces.

⋄ Chiltepín. A spherical wild chile varying from ¼-to-½ inch in diameter. Extremely hot.

⋄ Chipotle. Any smoked chile, but usually referring to a jalapeño smoked until dark and stiff.

⋄ Corazón. A spicy, heart-shaped poblano chile grown in Durango. The poblano, one of the most common Mexican chiles, is called ancho in its dried form. A statue in Mexico City honors the poblano.

⋄ Habanero. Grown in the Yucatán Peninsula, it was once considered the hottest chile in the world.

DeWitt said the habanero is his personal favorite regional Mexican chile.

“It makes a salsa and you can dilute it with onions and tomatoes. It’s an extremely wonderful flavor. It’s more floral because of the aroma,” he said.

⋄ Japón (“Japan”). A small, pointed chile grown in Veracruz and San Luis Potosí.

Curiously, several chile listings in the glossary refer to New Mexico.

One listing, “New Mexican,” formerly called Anaheim, is grown in Chihuahua and other northern states of Mexico and exported to the U.S.

DeWitt said the New Mexican varieties are mostly grown in Chihuahua for export because the state of New Mexico cannot meet the demand.

Of course, the 150-plus recipes are the central element of the cookbook.

But part one contains an informative chapter with a brief history of chile peppers in Mexico.

The book says that in southern Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula chile peppers have been part of the human diet since about 7500 B.C., predating the Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

Chiles were originally used as a spice collected in the wild. Then they were domesticated and became an important food during the rise of the Olmec culture in about 1000 B.C., the book states.

DeWitt is an Albuquerque-based food historian and a leading authority on chiles, spices and spicy foods worldwide. He’s been coproducer of the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show for many years.

Marmolejo is a Mexican chile pepper expert who lives in Mexico City.

He had owned and operated Don Alfonso Foods, a company that was based in Austin, Texas and specialized in Mexican delicacies.

“José came up with a lot of the family recipes in the book,” DeWitt said. “We’ve been friends for a long time and finally we’re co-authoring a book together. I figure if I write about Mexican chiles, I might as well have a Mexican co-author.”

DeWitt said one can find many Mexican chile products at the website mexgrocer.com.

Dave DeWitt

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