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Chipotle Peppers - Full Throttle Canned Heat

Updated on July 30, 2010

I'll never forget my first experience with canned chipotle peppers. I was making a spicy beef-and-tomato dish, and I blithely chopped about 1/4 cup of peppers and added them to the skillet. I stirred, I tasted, and then I ran for the sink and must have downed a quart of water before I could talk again. Anything that can shut me up that long has to be pretty powerful.

A chipotle pepper is a smoked jalapeƱo pepper; the canned kind are packed in adobo, a spicy sauce of chiles, herbs, tomato, and vinegar. You can always find canned chipotles in Mexican specialty markets, but they're increasingly available in mainstream supermarkets.

The flavor is hot, but also very smoky. You'll be amazed at the distinctive flavor just a small amount can add to a dish. You'll also be amazed how far one little can goes. Store your leftovers in a jar in the refrigerator; they'll keep almost indefinitely.

Chipotle peppers are hotter than almost anything else that comes in a can, so use them with caution. Try a small amount - one pepper, or just a couple teaspoons of it chopped plus a little of the liquid. If that's not hot enough for you, you can always add more.

  • Add chipotles, cumin, and a little cocoa to chili. The combination works for beef, turkey, or vegetarian versions.
  • Make an all-purpose condiment by mixing about a tablespoon of finely chopped chipotles with mayonnaise and a little lemon juice. Use it as you would tartar sauce on grilled fish, serve it with crab cakes, or spread it on your roast beef sandwich.
  • Puree chipotles with honey and garlic and use as a glaze for pork, chicken, or shrimp.
  • Spice up jarred black bean dip with chopped chipotles and fresh cilantro.
  • Chipotles are a natural with corn - add them to polenta or cornbread.

Handle chipotles with care; when you're chopping them, make sure you keep your hands away from your eyes and other sensitive areas. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you're finished. This may sound overprotective, but trust me - this is another lesson I learned the hard way.

Smokey Chipotle Pork Stew

2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 1/2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, rough chopped into one-inch chunks
2 medium onions, diced
1 (12 oz.) bottle or can of beer
4-6 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
3 Tbsp of the adobo sauce
2 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
Salt and pepper

1. Heat a 5 quart Dutch oven over medium heat until hot, approx. two minutes. Add and heat the oil. Add the pork pieces and cook, in batches if required, until brown on all sides. Move the pork to a bowl and put aside.

2. Turn the heat down to low and add the onions, stir using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom. Cover with a lid and cook, mixing occasionally, until the onions are golden and lightly brown around the edges, around 10 minutes. Add the cooked pork, chipotles, adobo sauce, beer and cumin and stir until combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer, mixing occasionally, until pork is fork-tender or for about 1.5 hours.

This dish can be served as a stew or the pork chunks can be shredded with forks and used to fill tacos or to make pulled-pork sandwiches.

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