How to make the most out of dried chillies
Depending on your imagination or inclination and the type of chilli, you might detect flavours of smoke, chocolate or even red wine.
Here are some tips to get you started on using dried chilli peppers.
A pepper primer
Anchos are the dried form of poblano peppers. Chef Jinich describes anchos as having a flavour that combines prunes, chocolate and sour notes. They're not typically that spicy, but they can lend foods a deceptive red colour that makes you think they're spicier than they are. Anchos are flat, wrinkly and almost heart-shaped, with a black-brown-red colour.
Another good entry point is the guajillo, Jinich says. She describes it as peppy - not very spicy, not sweet, but able to contribute seasoning to a dish.
It's relatively smooth, shiny and red.
Once you feel comfortable with these chillies - or before, if you're intrepid - start branching out to others such as chipotles (smoky dried jalapeños).
Buying and storing
Dried chillies "can get extremely dry and brittle," says Jinich, making them harder to work with. At the store, try to find chillies that are still malleable (the larger ones, anyway, such as ancho); you should be able to feel that through the package.
Look for chillies with vivid rather than faded colour.
Chef and author, Maricel Presilla suggests buying prepackaged dried chillies rather than loose; the latter are exposed to less-controlled storage conditions.
Once you're home, and especially after you've opened the package, keep them in an airtight bag or container to prevent them from drying out.
You want them in your typical pantry setting - cool, dry and dark. Stored properly, they will keep "forever and ever," Jinich says.
To clean or not to clean your dried chilli?
In the yes camp is Presilla: "Years of experience have led me to a sobering realisation, at many stages from field to display bin, dried chillies are left open to contamination by small animals or insects."
Presilla recommends rinsing them in plenty of cold water, then draining them well and letting them air-dry.
Unless you plan to leave it on for presentation, snap off the stem before you use it.
Depending on the recipe and your tastes, you can shake out the seeds or cut open the side to remove them.
A common preparation is to rehydrate chillies in warm or boiling water for up to half an hour. Of course, if you're adding it to something like a soup or stew, they can simply rehydrate during cooking, Jinich says.
You can turn the rehydrated chilli into a paste in a food processor or blender to incorporate into dishes.
Another option is dried-chilli powder. Grind it in a coffee grinder or a spice mill or just crumble them into flakes with your fingers or a mortar and pestle.
Cooking with peppers
Even if you don't make dishes designed specifically for dried chilli, there are plenty of ways to add them to your regular repertoire. They can blend seamlessly into soups and stews.
Use them to supplement, or star in, a meat or fish marinade or work them into your favourite brownie or other chocolate dessert.