I don’t smoke. I never have. By which I mean sure I’ve had the occasional cigarette–I’ve even bought packs–I’ve just never finished them. Not once in my life have I ever woken up and longed for a smoke. That said, parenthood changes a person. While I love my three year old and am convinced she hung the moon, there are days I long for a tall drink and a moment of smokey silence. And since these days I’m a few thousand miles from my favorite cigarette, a Nat Sherman Black and Gold, my smoke of choice has become chipotle.
Chipotle chiles are peppers from Mexico that have been dried and smoked. Sometimes they are dried by smoking. Either way, they are imbued with a wonderful flavor. I love to keep a jar of chipotles en adobo at all times. That spicy jar in the back of my fridge is like my secret stash. When I have a craving, I know right where to go. It’s delicious stuff and lasts for ages. If you want to make your own, follow my basic recipe. Of course, adjust it to suit your taste.
100 g chipotle chiles
1 onion, chopped
1 bulb of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of oregano, chopped,
1/2 bunch of thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted then crushed with a pestle and mortar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp Demerar sugar
1 tbsp salt
Rinse the chipotles with cold water. Snip off the stalk ends and discard. Put the chipotles in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer them for about 45 minutes or until they are soft. Once they have reached desired tenderness, rinse off extra seeds and drain.
In a blender, combine the onion, garlic, herbs, spices, chiles and a few tablespoons of water. Blend until you have a smooth paste.
Heat some olive oil in your heaviest bottom pan. Add the chile paste and sauté for a few minutes. Stir constantly to avoid sticking and burning.
Add the vinegars, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and a bit more water to achieve the thickness you desire. Stir and simmer for about 20 minutes. Flavor with more salt or sugar as you deem necessary. Also, dilute with water if you think it’s too strong. Pack in clean preserving jars and store.
I use this chipotle sauce as a salsa or in soups and stews. It’s one of my favorite ingredients when making black bean chili, the recipe for which is below.
2 small onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, grated
2 cans cherry tomatoes
3 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 heaping tbsp of cumin seeds
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chipotle sauce
2 tsp sea salt
Toast the cumin seeds over low heat. Smash them in a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Set them aside.
In a large pot, add some olive oil and warm over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until soft.
In a small bowl combine the vinegar, paprika, and cayenne. Add this to the onions and garlic, along with the tomatoes and chipotle. Simmer and reduce for about 20 minutes.
Finally, stir in the black beans. Cook for another ten minutes just so the beans warm through and flavors emulsify. I like to serve this with Greek yogurt and avocado.