When you get a wonderful cache of peppers from Marx Foods with the only proviso being to use your imagination and see what you can come up with… the possibilities that stretch before you are staggering. What can’t you do with dried peppers (I was going to say facials… but given the wonders that capsaicin can do for your circulation… even that might not be so bad -as long as you miss your eyes and nose!)??
Chili Photos from Marx Foods
I know by now all of you are familiar with the term Scoville Heat Units (SHU) to describe the heat in peppers. Bell peppers start at a dismal 0 and pure capsaicin tops out at 16,000,000 -- with pepper spray (yeah, the kind that cops use) coming in 500,000 to 5, 300.000 and the hottest pepper on the planet, the Bhut Jolokia at 855,000 to 1,050,000 (the jalapeno is a puny 2500-8000!) Humidity and soil play a great part in what part of the scale a particular pepper will take. * The heat scale is determined by human tests. The moment the heat appears in the tester’s mouth, the scale is set. Pure capsaicin is identifiable in 16 million parts of water!!!! Imperfect measuring to be sure, but an industry standard nonetheless.*
That said, Marx Foods sent me a package of medium heat chili. Being dried… the Scovilles seem to register higher that they do with the fresh variety since their chipotles (dry jalapenos) measure in at 25,000! With peppers this good you can smell how fresh they are… not like those sad peppers at the market in those little plastic packages that have been hanging there FOREVER! When I saw the Guajillo, New Mexico, Puya, Chipotle, Japones, smoked Serrano and De Arbol chilis, I knew I wanted to show them off in a fairly pure form… so I settled on a beautiful mole. Now, what else?
I thought I’d borrow from one of my favorite cookbook authors and legendary cooking teacher, Madeline Kamman who should be up there in the cook’s pantheon with Julia Child save for the fact she is so precise and brilliant (with a laser sharp, peregrine-fast mind and an insatiable curiosity about all things edible) that she might seem less accessible to the general audience than sweet, chicken-dropping Julia. Even she said "My own intensity has been a lifelong battle”, in a NYT interview with Molly O’Neill and wondered out-loud: ''I am French!'' she said in the interview in 1982. ''Why would they want an American 'French Chef'?''.
When I looked online to check into her history I discovered a legion of former students who will tell you she walks on water (and is the best cooking teacher ever) and that her classes changed their lives but also that she was one of the first of the Europeans to start playing with chili and lime and new world flavors. There we go, a connection! The Global Gourmet’s bio of her revealed that Kamman has been working at the stove since she was a teen, moving to the US when she got married in the 60’s after taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu. In the states she taught classes and opened a restaurant in Boston that was a real game-changer, named Chez la Mere Madeleine -- considered to be one of the finest in the country during its 1975-79 run. Although she has done many wonderful books, her most recent book The New Making of a Cook: The Art, Techniques, And Science Of Good Cooking
derives from her brilliant but much less ambitious The Making of a Cook, from the 70’s, a book I have had forever. It was always an amazing guidebook that explains why things work (or don’t) with charm and precision. The new version is an encyclopedia of cooking that teaches you what to do and most important, why things go wrong or right. A few of her recipes are among my favorites ever (I also love In Madeleine's Kitchen, she’s that good. I don't usually do this but I can't recommend buying her books enough... you will love them and I have linked to all of them on Amazon for you!!!
Many years ago (this is how I get in the history part), I started making this insanely good sauce of hers. I thought to myself, how would it be if I put a little heat into it? It is fabulous with the smoked chicken she recommended, avocado, orange slices and arugula… but I’ve also done it with smoked fish, duck and plain old chicken and turkey breast…honestly, I could see it with pork too. It’s that good. It is a riff on the famous orange sauce bigarade but without the meat stock element--with egg and oil and cream providing the body instead of reduced stock and flour so it is vegetarian ( I seem to be on an orange kick these days, don't I). I did make it with blood oranges instead of the regular Valencia. The taste is a little less sweet but I love it and the color of the orange sections is just too beautiful.
Orange Sauced Salad Inspired by the Inspiring Madeleine Kamman
½ c orange juice* 1 egg yolk
½ c dry Madeira or fino sherry ½ c virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons ¼ c cream
½ t. lemon zest 2 avocados
½ t orange zest 2 blood oranges (peeled and sectioned), kiwi
1 small garlic clove 1 green onion, red onion
1 small garlic clove 1 green onion, red onion
salt to taste ^ Mad Mole sauce ^
arugula, radicchio 1- 1 ½ pounds of boneless cooked meat **
*I used blood orange, if you do so, you might want to add a tsp. of sugar as they are not as sweet as a regular orange...taste and see.
** 2 smoked chicken breasts, or the equivalent in smoked fish or turkey, pork or duck. I got my smoked chicken from Nodine’s online.
Combine orange juice, Madeira or sherry, half the lemon juice, zests and a pinch of salt and boil till reduced to 3 T and it is a thick syrup.
Cool, then whisk in the egg yolk and slowly add the olive oil, whisking all the while.
Add the cream and the rest of the lemon juice to taste… you may not want to use it all. I have also made this without the cream, adding a little more olive oil instead. Add salt to taste.
^ Mad Mole Sauce ^
2 dried New Mexico chili (seeded)
2 smoked Serrano chili (or chipotle) seeded
3 dried apricot halves (or 3 T raisins)
2 T Madeira (I used Boston Bual)
2 T espresso (liquid-or dark roast coffee)
1 t of anise
Salt to taste
1 t pepper (I like grains of paradise… but black is fine)
2 t. molasses
Re-hydrate the chili and apricots (or raisins) in enough water to cover until softened. You can speed the process by popping it in the microwave for a moment. Puree the softened chili and apricots (or raisins) with the anise and Madeira and coffee in a blender, use some of the soaking liquid so that it has the consistency of ketchup.
Place a handful of arugula or endive on a plate. Add your meat/fish of choice, avocado and orange slices and the onion. Drizzle the orange sauce on the plate and dot with the chili mole.
****I used dandelion and it makes great dramatic swoops in the photos but decided in the end… the arugula is best.
*As always, facts come from the great and glorious Wikipedia!