A few weeks ago, a coworker brought me back some dried chiles from California upon my request. As he handed over the package to me, he asked me, "What in the world can you do with those hideous things?"
This surprised me coming from someone who regularly visits SoCal. If you don't know what do do with them, you at least know they are prized possessions and absolutely not hideous!
Either way, the comment didn't bother me because I was so dang giddy just to be holding the little plastic bags filled with delight to even make a smart comment back. All I could say was "Thank you so much" with a permanent smile and images of all the possibilities that were making my brain skip frequencies.
The thing about dried chiles that I don't understand is why they aren't available all over the world? Seriously, they are dried, so easily exportable with a very far away expiration date (if any at all). Here in France, you can find the Indian dried chiles, Thai chiles, Caribbean chiles, Moroccan ones, and of course, the prized French Piment d'espelette. You can even find a variety of these fresh rather than dried, but you can absolutely not find any of the Mexican ones. No Serrano, Jalapeño, California, Poblano, Ancho, Arbol, Chipotle in a can (come on it's in a can!!!). So of course, when someone is willing to bring something back from home, I always ask for dried chiles and I give a map to go along with it...
you know, just in case.
So now that I've had a bit of time to ponder what I would do with my precious treasure, I have this lovely fajita plate to show. The French love fajitas (though they pronounce them farritas with the throaty R) now that Dany Trejo has been doing commercials here for Old El Paso. They are much much less familiar with the incorporation of various beans on the plate, which I always have a blast helping them discover. I usually do black or pinto, but I put some black-eyed peas to soak last night and woke up imagining a smokey creamy bean side that I would be able to use as a soup after the fajita deal was over.
So to answer the question, you can make different salsas, marinades, broths, Mole, chili, dips, and pretty much transform any beans into a smokey spicy blissful dream with "those hideous things."
250g (1/2 b) turkey cutlets, sliced thinly
1 garlic clove, grated
few pinches fleur de sel
squeeze from 1/2 lime
few grinds black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chile powder (optional if serving with spicy beans)
1+1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced into moons
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 green chile, sliced (optional if serving with spicy beans)
1. Rub the grated garlic onto the turkey slices and sprinkle on some fleur de sel, black pepper, cumin, coriander, chile powder, and paprika. Add the lime juice, rub in to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Set aside and let marinate for at least 10 minutes (while you chop everything else.)
2. Heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil on high in a wok or heavy based pan. Add the onion slices and stir fry until just translucent, then add the bell pepper and green chile slices with a pinch of fleur de sel. Cook on high, stirring for about 3-5 minutes. Reserve.
3. Heat the other Tbsp olive oil into the same wok. Add the marinated turkey slices and cook until nicely colored.
4. Add the vegetables to the meat and heat through. You want the bell peppers to be crisp, so don't over-cook them into mush.
Smokey Black Eyed Peas
1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 chicken or veg bouillon cube
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 dried ancho chile
2 dried morita chiles
2 dried chiles de arbol
4-5 cups water
1 small can corn
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1. Place everything up to the water in the slow cooker. Cook on low for at least 6 hours.
2. Add the corn, grated garlic, pepper, and cumin. Stir to heat through, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
3. Remove the bay leaves and whole chiles before serving. If the chiles burst, the beans will be way too spicy. By removing them, you can decide which plate you would like to add the chile to.. (by the way, it's always my plate that wins).
Fajita Plate Garnish
cooked rice (I used a trio of Basmati, Brown, and Thai Red rice)
shredded cabbage (mine was Savoy)
shredded swiss or gruyère
dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream
tortillas (unfortunately, not pictured, but necessary to call this a "fajita plate")
When meals like this just happen in my kitchen, I truly feel fulfilled. I know I'm treating every part of my body to a delight, either immediate or deferred.. because, well, yes.. those chiles have quite the effect on me..