Cooking Corner

Roasted Chiles

There are few things that excite me to the degree that roasted chile’s do. The culinary opportunities these delectable green buggers provide is nearly endless. You can put them on burgers and sandwiches; in a variety of soups and stews, countless Mexican dishes, and perhaps even ice cream. I’ve never tried it, but I’m sure someone has and that it is worth trying.

I’m sure that one common barrier to enjoying chile’s is knowing how to prepare them. They are cheap, generally available, and have many uses, but outside of a restaurant setting, or the odd dinner with a Hispanic family, you are less likely to see them utilized. The reason for this (I believe) is that they have a thick skin that makes them difficult to prepare. The best way to remove the skin is to roast them and peel the skin from the delectable flesh. Many people will throw them directly over the flame on a propane stove, on the grill, or in the oven. The next step is to steam them (usually in a plastic bag or foil) and then, hopefully, peel them in a manner that is timely and effective. Oftentimes, the skin will stick in spots and make them impossible. This frustrating aspect of the preparation is, I believe, the biggest reason people don’t choose to use them.

When faced with any difficult situation, I tend to gravitate to bold and dramatic solutions. In a fit of frustration and laziness, I stumbled upon a method that is incredibly effective and gives them a wonderful flavor to boot! My solution? A ripping hot, raging inferno of a wood fire.

We were making chile burgers and had prepared a wood fire in the charcoal grill for the burgers. I love cooking over live fire. As I watched the flames shoot high above the open lid of the grill, dreading the task of peeling chilies, I decided to boldly go where, at least I, had never gone before. I arranged the grates above the flame with the help of long tongs and put the chilies directly in the blaze. This action elicited puzzled looks from my dinner companions, prompting me to shoot them a quick assurance that everything would be just fine, as I cursed and danced around, turning the peppers, dodging two-foot flares as they shot forth from the grill.

The result of this was coal black, nearly incinerated chile’s that I quickly removed, wrapped in foil, and ushered into the kitchen, as my dinner companions expressed their reservations. Reservation is perhaps too mild a term. There was a condemnatory tone in their voices. Reproach seemed imminent. I assured them all would be well and that, worst case scenario, we run to the store and grab some more or omit them altogether.

To my ever so pleasant surprise, the result of this technique was the quickest removal of chile skin I had ever experienced! I simply grasped the chile, slid my fingers down the length of it, and literally scared the incinerated skin off the chile. The remaining char enhanced the flavor in a way I had never experienced. It took the task from being tedious and infuriating, to intensely fun and gratifying.

From this point, you can do practically anything with them. If the tedious nature of preparation keeps you from using them, remember, just gently light them on fire!

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