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.
Thoughts before starting
- Removing the innards of the chile (seeds and ribs) isn’t a requirement before rehydrating, it can be done after the chiles are rehydrated
- Toasting the chile isn’t a requirement, but it helps to unlock the oils within the chiles to add additional flavor to your dish
- The water the chiles are rehydrated in is often used in a lot of recipes (just like pasta water with homemade pasta), use a measuring cup to save some of this water to use later
- Use a knife to remove the stem, seeds, and ribs of the chile
- Place a large skillet on a burner and set it to medium heat
- Add the chiles and toast until they start browning lightly (you don’t want them to char) this should take roughly 3 minutes
- Once the chiles are browned to your liking, add enough water to cover the chiles
- Cover, and bring to a simmer–cooking for 5-8 minutes
- Take the saucepan off the heat (still with the lid on) and let it rest for 5 minutes
- Remove the chiles from the water (being sure to save some of the water if your recipe requires it) and use the now rehydrated chiles as needed