Dried chiles are a huge staple to Mexican cuisine. From marinades and moles, to sauces and salsas, they are to Mexican food what ketchup is to a hamburger–they’re essential. Plenty of people are familiar with a lot of the fresh versions of these chiles (jalapeno, habanero, anehiem); however, there is often a moment of dread the second you have to rehydrate a dried chile as an ingredient in a recipe.
Why would a recipe call for a dried version as opposed to their fresh counterparts? Isn’t it preached from on high that fresh is always better?
Think of the reason you’d use dried herbs instead of fresh. There’s a natural convience factor of always having them tucked away in your spice drawer. Additionally, there isn’t a risk of the herb going bad after a week like a bundle of fresh cilantro in the crisper drawer. Additionally, even those the herb is dried, it brings a different flavor profile to the dish. Often times it’s a more intense and concentrated version of the herb.
All of these properties apply to a dried chile. Instead of having to make sure your guajillo’s are fresh, just pull them off the pantry shelf and you’re ready to cook.
Now, typically, if a recipe calls for a dried chile, you’re going to be tasked with some sort of rehydration and then puréeing it. It’s this rehydration process that differentiates dried chiles from dried herbs, and it may seem a little scary at first. Don’t worry though, it’s a very straight forward, and dare we say, simple process. Once you’ve done it once, you won’t even need to reference this post the next time you’re required to rehydrate.
Once you’ve your chile rehydrated, you’re ready to create a beautiful compliment to any dish.