I am a big fan of Alton Brown as you may already know, as well as a big fan for home made spices. And when these two come together, the result is an instant combustion that will make every chilli recipe (or any other that call for chili powder) a winner.
Gather Your Pods and Spices
It was pretty easy to find the dried Arbol and Ancho (dried poblano) chiles in my favorite grocery store, but I was never able to find the Cascabel chiles Alton was talking about. It took me quite a while to discover them in a Spanish grocery store while in Florida this year. I made three batches previously without the Cascabel chiles and they turned out equally tasty to my senses. But, I am not a supertaster and others might immediately notice that the Cascabel chile is missing. Make sure you clean the pods of every little bit of seed since they can be bitter. You can control the amount of heat by adding one Arbol chile at a time in the blending phase, then if you want more, just add another one and so on. If you don’t want heat at all, just skip the Arbol chiles altogether. But.. who would ever do that?!
Other than that, chances are that you already have all your ingredients in your cupboard already – hopefully not in a powder form ( I am talking about the whole cumin seeds). You see, once a spice, say like cumin, is pounded to a powder, it starts releasing its essential oils that play the main part in the role of a spice! But so many times these oils are volatile and they simply disappear into thin air within months, weeks, days or even hours. That’s why we’ll opt for whole cumin seeds instead of cumin powder.
We will be needing:
- 3 Ancho chile pods, chopped, stemmed and seeded
- 3 Arbol chile pods, chopped, stemmed and seeded
- 3 Cascabel chile pods, chopped, stemmed and seeded
- 2 Tbs whole cumin seeds
- 2 Tbs garlic powder
- 1 Tbs dried oregano
- 1 ts smoked paprika
A Word on Paprika
Now, Paprika (and the garlic powder) will be the only exception from the above suggestion and we’ll be adding it as a powder. See, I was born 2 hours from Szeged, Hungary, a town that gained world wide fame for its local made Paprika. I grew up with the real Paprika in all the dishes my Mom and Grandma made so coming to the United States and tasting the stuff sold here, I thought it was a joke. To me that’s nothing else but red pigment and it has nothing to do with the real paprika aroma. I wasn’t sure why this was the case until Alton Brown mentioned in an episode that Paprika looses its fragrance just after a couple of months. And how true that is! I always pick up a couple packs of Paprika from Szeged while returning from a visit to Romania, on our way back to the Budapest’s airport, and I was able to notice how the aroma wears out with time pretty fast even in an air-tight container. So, when buying Paprika, make sure you check the packing date. Even if it’s not exact, at least it will give you an idea of its age. The one I am using here is a smoked paprika from Spain, and it does smell mighty good!
Start by roasting the chopped chile pods and cumin seeds for about 5 minutes in a pan over medium-high until you can smell the toasted cumin. Make sure you shake the pan often.
While these cool (for 3-4 minutes), pull out your trusty blender, add all the ingredients and the cooled toasted pods and cumin, and blend the daylight out all of these until you have a nice uniform fine powder. Let the dust inside the blender bowl settle before removing the lid if you don’t want to sniff chili powder up your nostrils.
Store in an air-tight container and be happy-clappy! And to end with an Alton Brown quote:
“Whatever you do, don’t use store-bought chili powder. There’s more flavor in the glue holding on this label than there is in the bottle, right Rusty?!”