Field Notes

Pequin Caramel Brownies

The chocolate-chili combo is popular for good reason: the richness of cacao can temper a chili’s heat, allowing the other flavor notes to come through. Here, caramel provides one additional layer of contrast to really highlight the citrus-y notes of the pequin.

Pequin Caramel Brownies

Makes 9 large brownies and 1 cup caramel

For the brownie batter:

🌶 4½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
🌶 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
🌶 1 ¾ cup sugar
🌶 3 large eggs
🌶 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
🌶 ¾ teaspoon salt
🌶 1 cup all-purpose flour

For the caramel:

🌶 1 ½ cups sugar
🌶 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
🌶 ¼ teaspoon salt
🌶 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
🌶 6 tablespoons heavy cream
🌶 5 to 7 dried, pequin chiles, crushed

Make the batter: Preheat the oven to 350°. In a double boiler set over some simmering water, add the chocolate and butter and melt, stirring, until smooth. Let cool slightly. Transfer the melted chocolate to a large bowl, and stir in the sugar and the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, salt, and all-purpose flour and stir until combined. Line an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment and the sides of the pan with cooking spray. Pour ½ the batter into the pan and spread into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven (it won’t be cooked through) and set aside while you prepare the caramel.

Make the caramel: Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 6 tablespoons of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer and let cook undisturbed until the caramel reaches 340° on a candy thermometer (it’ll have darkened into a light amber). Remove the pan from heat and quickly whisk in the butter and cream (the mixture will froth up). Whisk until smooth.

Pour ½ cup of the caramel onto the par-baked brownie layer and spread out evenly, leaving about ½-inch margin from the edge. Sprinkle the crushed pequin chilies evenly over the caramel. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to help set.

Add the remaining brownie batter to the top of the caramel and spread out evenly in a single layer so that the caramel is covered entirely. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into squares and serving. For an extra burst of flavor, top lightly with The Chili Lab Pequin Chili Salt.

 

Honey-Chipotle Baked Beans

Baked beans are a one-pot staple that defies geography. You’ll see a pot of beans as regularly in the churches of Maine as you will in the barbecue joints of Tennessee. Chipotle peppers add a subtle smokiness that extends the meat-mimicking caper of the beans. And the peppers’ tobacco-like earthiness matches beautifully with the sweet underline of honey. An herby breadcrumb topping gilds the lily, evoking the classic French version of the dish, cassoulet.

Honey-Chipotle Baked Beans

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 to 5 dried chipotle peppers (depending on your desired heat level)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 3 strips smoky bacon
  • ½ red onion, cut into 4 pieces
  • ½ red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Colman’s mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey (maple syrup or sorghum syrup would also work well here)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups meaty white beans (such as Great Northern)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the chipotle peppers and the boiling water and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a food processor, add the bacon and process until it is a paste. Add the red onion, red pepper, carrot and garlic and process until the vegetables are finely chopped and incorporated in the paste.

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, add the bacon-vegetable mixture and cook slowly, until the fat from the bacon has rendered and the vegetables begin to smell roasted, about 10 minutes. Stir in the smoked paprika, mustard, honey and tomato paste. Drain the chipotles from their liquid and finely chop. Add the chipotles to the Dutch oven, along with the white beans. Add the chicken stock, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake an additional 15 to 30 minutes, until the beans are quite tender. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt to taste.

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, parsley and olive oil together. Season with a bit of salt, and spread the breadcrumb mixture in an even layer over the top of the beans. Heat under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the breadcrumbs have turned golden brown. Serve immediately.

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The Chili Pepper Field Guide is a growing knowledge base exploring the diverse flavors of chili peppers from around the world. We welcome your thoughts and content suggestions via email or social media using hashtag #chililab

Pork Chops with Aji-Pepita Chimichurri

Pork chops love the round sweetness of fruit (think about all the pork chops with apples or pears that you’ve had in your life), making the aji amarillo pepper, known for its compelling fruitiness, a perfect match. Here, the pepper contributes in two forms: first, whole dried peppers are rehydrated to add richness and sweet, berry-like acidity to a pepita-based chimichurri sauce. Then ground aji amarillo is used in place of plain black pepper to season the chops before they hit the pan.

Serves 4

  • 2 dried aji amarillo chili peppers
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup each flat leaf parsley, mint, and cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ lemon, cut into quarters and seeds removed
  • 2 bone-in pork chops, 1½ inches thick
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground aji amarillo pepper
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Preheat the oven to 450°. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook them.

Place the chilies in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes, until the chilies have softened.

In a skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas until they begin to sizzle and pop and darken slightly in color, about 4 minutes.

Place the pepitas, herbs, garlic, lemon pieces (with the rind and all), rehydrated chiles and ¼ cup of the chili liquid in a blender. With the motor running, add ¾ cup canola oil in a drizzle and blend until the mixture has formed a smooth puree. Pour into a bowl and season to taste with salt.

Season the pork chops liberally on both sides with salt and the ground aji amarillo. Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork chops and cook without moving for 2 minutes, or until a nice golden sear has formed. Flip the chops and sear another 2 minutes on the other side. Reduce the heat to medium. Flip the chops again and cook for about 3 minutes more. Flip the chops once more and transfer to the oven. Let cook between 5 and 8 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 135°. Transfer the chops to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes (they will continue to cook as they rest).

Douse each chop with a bit of the chimichurri, plus more alongside for those who’d like extra. This dish would be great alongside rice or roasted potatoes. Extra chimichurri will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator (though it will begin to discolor slightly after 1 day).

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The Chili Pepper Field Guide is a growing knowledge base exploring the diverse flavors of chili peppers from around the world. We welcome your thoughts and content suggestions via email or social media using hashtag #chililab

Roasted Cauliflower Freekah with Arugula and Anchovies

In this recipe, the clean, herbal, citrusy hot flavor of piri piri is set in contrast against earthy and rich ingredients for a powerfully flavored weeknight meal. The starchy sweetness of roasted cauliflower is the perfect vessel to bring out all of the nuances of this high-octane pepper.

 

  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground piri piri chili (less if you don’t like heat)
  • Sea salt
  • ½ cup freekah
  • 6 oil-cured anchovy fillets
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Juice of ½ lemon (1 to 2 teaspoons)
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving


Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the cauliflower florets and bay leaves in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine ¼ cup of the olive oil and the ground piri piri chili. Pour the mixture over the cauliflower and toss to coat. Transfer the cauliflower to a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with salt. Roast, stirring once, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned around the edges. Discard the bay leaves and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the freekah and 1½ cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet, heat the remaining ¼ cup olive oil. Add the anchovies and garlic and cook until anchovies are dissolved in the oil, about 3 minutes. Add the red onion and cook until the onion is softened, about 7 minutes. In a large bowl, add the roasted cauliflower, cooked freekah and the hot contents of the skillet (use a spatula to scrape out all the oil and browned bits). Add the arugula and the lemon juice and stir for a minute, until everything is nicely coated and the arugula has wilted slightly. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano, and season with additional salt to taste. Divide between bowls and serve with additional cheese on the side.

Serves 4

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The Chili Pepper Field Guide is a growing knowledge base exploring the diverse flavors of chili peppers from around the world. We welcome your thoughts and content suggestions via email or social media using hashtag #chililab

Mussels with Chili Butter

We love delicious food - but there is one thing we love even more: delicious food, fast! Mussels are relatively inexpensive, prepared quickly and are a sophisticated dinner that will have you reaching for seconds!

Mixing in a little chili butter to infuse heat into the dish is a quick and easy way, without overpowering the broth. No complicated sauces or long prep times. Just a simple and flavorful dinner!

 

We used the Foragers Blend to bring out the earthiness of the mussels and turn up the heat, but if you are looking for a more subtle flavor, the Grove Blend  would also work well, and highlight the citrus notes in the dish.  

Have you tried experimenting with Chili Butter yet?

 

Mussels with Chili Butter

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh Mussels, scrubbed debearded

3 tablespoons Chili Butter, Forager's Blend

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1 finely chopped shallots

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon Rosemary

2/3 cup Wine

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Fresh Bread

 

Directions

In a large pot add Chili Butter and olive oil and heat on medium high heat. When hot, add shallots and garlic gloves and cook until fragrant. Add rosemary, wine, and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Add mussels and cook for 5-10 minutes until shells are open.

Serve hot, garnished with parsley, and with bread for dipping.