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Homemade Chile-Garlic Paste

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From the NY Times. Very easy to make, I discovered. I forgot to toast the peppers, but the result tastes great. Not very hot, this time. I used rice-bran oil because I had some on hand. In the video, he says that the dried chiles should be somewhat soft and flexible, not totally dried out. I’ll definitely be making this again. At the link is a video that explains quite well how to prepare and the various uses, along with quite a few tasty-sounding variations.

It has a reputation for being one of the mysteries of international cuisine, but chili paste is really about as easy to make as applesauce. Take dried chilies, soak them until they are soft, combine them with a spice or two (or not) and purée.

You can make it more complex, of course, but with a variety of dried chilies — some mild, some hot — you won’t go far wrong. For the best flavor, toast the chilies before soaking, turning them in a dry skillet or over an open flame just until they darken and become fragrant.

Start with at least two types of good dried chilies. By that I mean chilies that are relatively fresh. They should be somewhat pliable, even moist, when you buy them, and not musty or moldy.

New Mexico, ancho and pasilla are all fairly easy to come by, relatively mild and quite complex in flavor. Of these, I like ancho best; Mexican and other Latin American markets carry them.

You can make a terrific paste with just one or two of those varieties, along with a chipotle or two. There are no hard and fast rules on the subject of chilies, but chipotles are usually smoked jalapeños (they can be made from other chilies). They add both heat and a spectacular and beguiling smokiness. Sometimes their heat is quite intense, so think twice before adding more than one.

If you’re looking for more heat without the characteristic smokiness of the chipotle, just add a few ordinary dried red chilies; these may be Thai, serrano, or any of a number of other varieties. They can be found in any good market, and should be quite inexpensive.

My favorite seasoning is garlic. In its hottest form chilies with garlic resembles the Vietnamese style chili-garlic paste sold in stores; with a combination of mild & hot chilies, it’s like nothing you can buy.

For Mexican-style chili paste, add a bit of cumin, and some oregano or epazote. With good curry powder or garam masala you’d produce the kind of paste you see in northern India. You can make a blend similar to harissa, the classic paste from North Africa, by adding coriander and cumin.

If you use fresh herbs or aromatics (including garlic), refrigerate the finished paste and use it within a day or so for maximum freshness and oomph. If all your seasonings are dried, the paste will last a couple of weeks at least. …

Chili Garlic Paste

Time: 15 minutes plus 30 minutes’ soaking

10 to 15 dried whole chilies, preferably a mixture of mild and hot, about 2 to 3 ounces
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or canola
Salt
2 cloves peeled garlic, optional.

1. Put chilies in a bowl and cover with boiling water and a small plate to keep them submerged. Soak for about 30 minutes, or until soft. Reserve a bit of the soaking water. Clean each chili: remove stem, then pull or slit open; do this over sink, as they will contain a lot of water. Scrape out seeds, retaining some if you want a hotter paste.

2. Put chilies, any seeds you might be using, the oil, a large pinch of salt and the garlic, if you are using it, in a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth, adding a spoonful of soaking water at a time, until consistency is a thick paste.

3. Use immediately or cool, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to two days. Just before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Yield: About 1/2 cup.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2007 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Recipes

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