The term chile (chili) is a complex. It can refer to: 1) a large number of fresh capsicum pods of varying heat levels; 2) the dried and/or smoked pods; 3) the same pods in powdered form (with or without the seeds); and 4) varied spices blends that include one or more of the powdered chilies as a main ingredient.
Chile pods are a multifarious ingredient, and the same pepper in a different form can greatly change the flavor of the final product. A dish can use only the fresh peppers, or the dried pods, or a combination of the two. For this meal, my chili con carne will have a combination of fresh and dried peppers.
In this case, chili powder is the blend of seasoning used to make chili with beans. Commercial chili powder is frequently bulked up by adding a lot of salt, so it is a good idea to make your own. The basic recipe calls for ground dried chilies, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder.
Many homemade American versions use only paprika and cayenne, which are easily available in most stores. You may use pre-ground chile, if that is all that is available to you, but it is always better to start with the dried pods. Some chefs use a variety of dried chilies in their recipes, seeking the perfect combination of complex flavors and heat.
After Dinner Note: When I had finished making this chili powder, it smelled “right.” It turned out to be very mile (heat-wise). As a result, I was able to use a fir amount to make a very spicy chili, that was not too hot to eat. If you want a hotter chili powder add more Arbol chile.
Karl’s Chili Powder
1 Tbs. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. black pepper corns
2 tsp. Pimentón de la Vera Dulce (smoked Spanish paprika, mild)
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1. Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chilies.
Tip: Depending on how hot you want your spice blend, use the arbol chile sparingly. You can control the heat of the mix by not using the whole pod. This is a very hot chile and a little goes a long way. Of course, if you like a really spicy chili powder you may use more than one arbol chili.
2. Tear the chilies into one inch pieces and—in a dry skillet, over medium high heat—toast the chili pods briefly.
Tip: This only takes a few seconds and the point between toasted and burnt is very short. Discard any burnt chili pieces and try again.
3. In a dry skillet, toast the cumin, coriander, and pepper corns for one minute, until fragrant.
4. Process the chilies and spices into a fine powder.
Tip: You can use a mortar and pestle for this, but an electric spice grinder is much easier.
Note: The chili pod pieces are too big to process all at once. I had to grind three batches into a powder before they would fit into the spice grinder.
5. Put all of the spice blend ingredients into a small bowl.
6. Add the paprika, Mexican oregano, garlic and onion powders, mix well, and reserve.
Tip: In addition to adding a smoky flavor, the paprika adds a bright red color to your chili powder.
Note: This recipe makes about 12 tablespoons of chili powder. Enough for the batch of chili I was making with almost a full spice jar of chili powder remaining for future meals.