Don Day admits it. He cheats. Not on Don Day’s Wife of course. But he definitely cheats on his friends. And often with his wife as his number one accomplice.
You see there are some things that Don Day just doesn’t feel are worth the time and effort to make in the kitchen. Even things that Don Day feels food companies can make and package that are much better than Don Day or Don Day’s Wife can make from scratch.
That’s why when the bags are loaded on the plane for San Miguel de Allende next week, they’ll include a couple of packs of Knorr Peppercorn Sauce.
That’s also why Don Day will be happy to be back in Mexico where every tienda that has food on their shelves has La Costeña Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce. Because Don Day thinks that…along with Salma Hayek, of course…they’re one of Mexico’s great contributions to the world.
First, let me tell you exactly what they are then I’ll tell you some of the things I do with them.
La Costeña Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce come in 186 milliliter cans with a pull back tab that makes you think you’re opening a beer (there are larger sizes but you’d have to be a chipotle addict to need a bigger fix). Each can contains about seven or eight jalapeno peppers that were picked when very red and ripe and then smoked “following an Aztec tradition” according to a spokesperson for La Costeña. What the tradition is Don Day has no idea but I do know it adds an amazing smoke flavor that I don’t think any other processed food can compare with. The adobo sauce, a spicy mix whose prime taste is tomato is a simply perfect pool for the peppers to swim in. The label lists the actual contents of that adobo sauce as water, tomato, vinegar, salt, soybean oil, sugar, condiments and spices. Damn it, Don Day hates those “condiments and spices” descriptions; tell me just a little more…no ancient Aztec secrets, mind you…but just a hint at what those ingredients might be.
La Costeña has been around since 1923 and also commercially produces tasty cans of serrano peppers, tomatillos, nopalitos (cactus leaves) and olives. They even make an excellent Mexican style mayonnaise that has the extra zip of lime juice. According to the magazine, Entrepreneur Mexico, they also control over 60% of the world’s chile market.
OK, next an answer about La Costeña Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce before Don Day even gets the anticipated question: “How hot are those babies?”
Well, first of all, the jalopenos are neither deseeded nor deveined; they’ve still got the full knockout punch inside. Which means (this next bit of info is strictly for chiliheads) they’re somewhere between 2500-8000 on the Scoville Scale. Which means (this next bit of info is for non-chiliheads) they’ll probably burn both going in and coming out. Which means that Don Day would have to be very, very drunk before he’d even consider ingesting a whole one.
But all of this is somewhat irrelevant. For Don Day loves chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, not as a main course, but only as an enhancement for other fine foods.
Let me start with one simple example. Don Day’s Wife was recently making a broccoli with poblano and ricotta soup (sounds strange, tastes great). She decided it needed a little extra zip. Into the vegetable tray in the fridge and out with the ziploc baggie with the remainder of the contents of a La Costeña can. Out with one chipotle pepper and a little bit of the juice and, after a little whirl with her immersion blender, there was a soup that had Don Day touching his middle finger to the middle of his thumb.
OK, another example, this one just as simple. On Friday night, Don Day’s Wife was serving tacos with chicken thighs to a couple of the grandkids. She needed a sauce. Two ounces of mayo, two ounces of sour cream, half a chipotle from the baggie (whose contents usually look more like body parts than peppers), blend and presto: as good a chipotle mayonnaise as Don Day has ever had.
Another example, this one a favorite rub for Don Day’s pulled pork. For a one kilo pork shoulder, blend a mixture of four chipotle peppers, one tablespoon of adobo sauce from the can, the juice of two limes, two tablespoons of olive oil, five cloves of garlic and one teaspoon of cumin and marinate the meat for about 30 minutes. Then place it in a cooking pot with a tight lid, pour in a 14 oz. can of coconut milk (available at Bonanza or Luna de Queso in San Miguel), put it in a 300 degree F oven and forget about it for about five hours. I’m salivating as I think of that melt-in-the-mouth meat being placed inside a tortilla and the sauce drizzling down on the plate.
And one more way for you to use La Costeña Chipotle Peppers, one I made for tonight’s dinner (yes I needed some photos for the blog). How about a chipotle peppers in adobo sauce dessert? Sound crazy? Not if you’ve ever tasted Lindt chocolate bars with chili. Or if you’ve had the burnt caramel sundae at The Restaurant in San Miguel which also uses salted nuts in combination with some sweet delights.
The incredibly simple recipe combines La Costeña Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce along with the subject of Don Day’s previous blog, Turin Semisweet Chocolate to, as the Wrigley twins used to say, double your pleasure. It’s an idea from a very vivacious chef called Patricia Lopez who I think has a promo deal with La Costeña as she’s usually found wearing an apron emblazoned with their logo when she appears on those morning TV shows.
The ingredients, which make enough for four servings, are two ounces of whipping cream; three ounces of Turin semisweet chocolate, broken into small chunks; one La Costeña chipotle pepper, very finely chopped, one tablespoon of honey, and two ounces of salted peanuts (they should be the very salted kind like Spanish redskins; if they’re not, sprinkle some more salt on them).
Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate, honey and pepper. Stir until melted. Then pour the sauce over virtually anything that you might put custard, cream or any other sweet sauce on and sprinkle the nuts on top.
Tonight I served the chocolate chipotle sauce with flourless chocolate cake left over from the previous night and slices of fresh mangos. By the time it was ready, Don Day’s Wife was in front of the TV, watching the most recent medical misadventures on Grey’s Anatomy. She took a bite, looked at me for about five seconds and then, when the chili finally kicked in, let out a long “ooooooooooooooooo”.
Don Day’s Wife also made a decision about what was going to happen on New Year’s Eve when we cohost a dinner in San Miguel for a few friends. “That sauce is going on the molten chocolate cake”, she told me.
Ah yes, we’ll soon be chipotle cheatin’, southern style, again.