Test Kitchen tips: Using dried chiles
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 (a knife can be difficult to use on the tough chiles).
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, 1 to 2 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.
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-- Noelle Carter
Photo credits: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times (top); Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times