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Three-alarm flavor without the flames.

Tone down chipotle's heat to get more of its great taste

Smoke is the magic that turns fresh, ripe jalapeno chilies into chipotles. These fleshy chilies and similar varieties need a little heat to dry their thick walls. As they rest well above a low-burning flame, smoke slips into them so naturally it's hard to believe the resulting complexity didn't develop as the chilies grew.

As the shiny, raw red pods shrink and wither during the smoking process, they turn a dull brown. Their uniquely lusty, almost meaty flavor, however, is anything but dull. Many a timid palate braves potential scorching to savor it, but those in the know temper the chili heat to get more flavor and less fire. Just remove the veins (where the heat is concentrated) and the seeds. Then use the chilies with a freer hand to give a chipotle edge to braised meats, sauces, sandwiches, mayonnaise, dressings, soups, and salsas.

Chipotles come in two forms: canned in adobado (a spicy tomato sauce) or dried. Both are staples in Latino groceries, but they are appearing with increasing frequency in well-stocked supermarkets, too.

Soak dried or rinse canned chipotle chilies. Wear rubber gloves when handling chilies, or wash hands well after touching them. Pour boiling water over dried chipotles and let them soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Pull off and discard stems, veins, and seeds. Or rinse canned chilies and gently pull off and discard stems, veins, and seeds.

Chipotle and Red Pepper Salsa

Cooking time: About 6 minutes

Prep time: About 7 minutes with canned chilies, about 20 minutes with dried

Notes: Serve as a dip or as a sauce for grilled meats.

Makes: About 1 1/2 cups

1 onion (about 6 oz.) 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup canned roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained 4 or 5 dried or canned chipotle chilies, soaked or rinsed (see preceding) 2 tablespoons lime juice Salt

1. Slice onion 1/2 inch thick. In an 8- to 10-inch frying pan, cook onion and garlic over high heat, turning occasionally, until flecked with dark brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

2. In a blender or food processor, whirl till smooth 1/2 the onion mixture and 1/2 the red peppers with all the chilies and lime juice.

3. Chop remaining onion and red peppers, and stir into puree. Add salt to taste.

Per tablespoon: 6.2 cal., 15% (0.9 cal.) from fat; 0.1 g protein; 0.1 g fat (0 g sat.); 1.3 g carbo.; 13 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Chipotle Corn Soup

Cooking time: About 20 minutes Prep time: 10 to 20 minutes Makes: 5 or 6 servings

3 or 4 dried or canned chipotle chilies, soaked or rinsed (see preceding) 1 1/2 quarts chicken broth 1 onion (6 oz.), chopped 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced 3/4 teaspoon cumin seed 1 package (10 oz.) frozen corn kernels 1 Roma tomato (about 1/4 lb.), cored and diced 1/2 pound (about 2 cups) shredded cooked chicken 2 tablespoons lime juice 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves 1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. In a 3- to 4-quart pan, combine chilies, broth, onion, garlic, cumin, and corn. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.

2. Stir in tomato and chicken. Bring to a boil. Add lime juice and cilantro.

3. Ladle into bowls, and add cheese.

Per serving: 208 cal., 48% (99 cal.) from fat; 17 g protein; 11 g fat (4.8 g sat.); 16 g carbo.; 195 mg sodium; 49 mg chol.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes; cooking jalapeno chilies
Author:Anusasananan, Linda Lau
Date:Mar 1, 1996
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