All About Ancho Chile
FLAVOR & AROMA There are an endless number of chiles, and each has its own particular notes. I use anchos since they offer complex notes of plum and raisin with mild heat. What I really enjoy is the dark, deep color they get from the drying process; it adds great visual richness to dishes and blends.
Where anchos really shine is when they are used in soups, stews or grilled dishes. I often use them to bring paprika to life, particularly in seasons when that spice is lighter in color and the flavor fades. Since anchos never lose their bold taste, they really help to complement and correct any inconsistencies with paprika.
ORIGIN Native to Puebla, Mexico. Cultivated mainly in Mexico and California
HARVEST SEASON Anchos are actually poblano peppers that are left on the vine to ripen fully, changing from a fresh green color to a deep, reddish black. The first harvests of green chiles are sold as poblanos, while anchos stay in the field, where the flavors and sugars have more time to develop (about 6 months from sowing). These 3- to 6-inch-long fruits flourish in the hot summer temperatures of Mexico and are harvested late in the season by being cut from the stem. They are traditionally laid out in the sun on mats that allow air to flow underneath as they dry for a few weeks.
PARTS USED Dried whole pepper
HISTORY One of the most popular dried chile varieties in the world, the ancho originates in the Puebla Valley, just southeast of Mexico City. It was used as a main ingredient in Mexican cuisine long before the Spanish conquest and continues to grow and thrive there. Along with the mulato and pasilla chiles (the former is also a poblano, picked and dried at a different time), they form what is considered the holy trinity of chiles, which are essential to traditional mole sauces. Anchos are often toasted and ground to add just a little extra heat to sauces, or rehydrated and stuffed. You will very often find them on the ingredient list for red chili, enchiladas, salsa and tamales.
Authentic to Mexico
Chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers)
Adobo marinade for lamb
Braised black beans
Red mole sauce
HEAT INDEX Slight heat
cumin, garlic, orange peel, oregano, paprika
1) Mix cooked egg yolk with ancho chile powder, mayonnaise, lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro to prepare Mexican-inspired deviled eggs.
2) Grate whole ripe tomatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Add ancho chile powder, lemon juice, olive oil and chopped onions for a quick salsa.
3) In a blender, puree cooked red beans, ancho chile powder and fresh garlic cloves. Season with salt for a pungent spread or side dish.
QUICK BLEND Puebla
Season kabocha, or other squash varieties, with a bit of this blend and olive oil before roasting until tender. It also adds complexity and mild heat to a balsamic vinaigrette destined for pork belly or arugula salad.
Makes about 2½ tablespoons/26 grams
1½ tablespoons/15 grams ancho chile powder
½ tablespoon/5 grams cumin, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon/3 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
Scant ¾ teaspoon/2 grams white sesame seeds, toasted
Scant ½ teaspoon/1 gram chipotle powder
Excerpted from ‘The Spice Companion’ (Clarkson Potter) by Lior Lev Sercarz.
Lior Lev Sercarz is the chef and owner of La Boîte, a spice shop in New York City.