Many recipes call for dried chiles. Drying, a popular method of preserving, removes all of chiles' moisture, concentrating their flavors and allowing them to keep much longer.
To seed dry chiles, pull off the stems with your hands. Cut a slit along one side of the chile, lengthwise, using a pair of scissors, then pull out the seeds and ribbing with your fingers. You can then dice the dried chiles using the scissors (they're tough, so a knife can be difficult to use).
As with toasting spices and nuts, toasting chiles before adding them to a recipe gives extra dimension and adds depth of flavor. To toast chiles, heat a dry saute or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chiles and toast until they darken and become aromatic, one to two minutes on each side depending on the heat.
Oftentimes, a recipe will call for rehydrating the chiles before using. To rehydrate, put the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water or broth. Weigh the chiles down with a plate, and set them aside for several minutes to soften. Clean, dice (use a knife for softened chiles) and use as needed. Note: Be sure to save the rehydrating liquid -- the liquid will have absorbed great flavor from the softened chiles. Use the liquid in the recipe at hand, or save it to lend depth to soups, stews and braises.
SMOKY BLACK BEAN STEW
Total time: 2 hours | Serves 6 to 8
1 pound dried black beans
6 cups water
2 dried morita chiles or 1 dried chipotle chile
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crema Mexicana, or sour cream, for garnish
Chopped green onions, for garnish
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Grated cotija cheese, for garnish
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, bring the black beans, water, chiles, onions, garlic and bay leaf to a simmer. Cover tightly and transfer to the oven.
2. Cook for 1 hour, then add 1 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of black pepper and stir to combine. Re-cover the pot and return it to the oven to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 30 to 45 more minutes.
3. Use an immersion blender to coarsely purée the beans just enough to release some of the starch. Alternatively, purée 1 cup of beans in a stand blender and return them to the pot. Heat just until the beans have thickened. (The dish can be prepared to this point several days in advance and refrigerated, tightly sealed.)
4. When ready to serve, bring the beans back to a simmer. Add a little more water if they are too thick. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.
5. Ladle the beans into warmed serving bowls and garnish with a spoonful of crema Mexicana, a sprinkling of green onions and cilantro, and grated cotija cheese, with more passed at the table. Serve immediately.
Each of 8 servings: calories 189; protein 12 grams; carbohydrates 34 grams; fiber 12 grams; fat 1 gram; saturated fat 0; cholesterol 0; sugar 1 gram; sodium 293 mg.