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Chipotle Peppers

Finding the Chipotle in Your Menu

by Trish Bales

Ah, springtime. Let’s hope it lasts a while and doesn’t skip right into summer!

In the meantime, while we are enjoying the cool evenings and the song-filled mornings, we can also enjoy some refreshing menus utilizing fresh spring ingredients by adding some traditional Texas spices for that extra flair.

The tradition of smoking a jalapeño thereby turning it into a chipotle pepper has been a part of Texas cuisine since it was passed down to us by the Aztecs. The Aztecs smoked the chilies similar to the way they smoked their meats. This would allow the peppers to be stored and used when they were ready to add some fire to whatever they were cooking. Jalapeños are prone to rot quickly so by drying the chilies the Aztecs, from what is now Northern Mexico City, were able to store them for a considerably long period of time.

Chipotles are available dried whole, powered (similar to any chili powder), canned in "adobo sauce" (my personal favorite) or pickled. The adobo sauce is made up of spices, vinegar and tomato sauce. The sauce alone will add plenty of zip to any soup or sauce, and I love to mix a couple of tablespoons into my meatloaf recipe.

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Another delicious way to utilize chipotles is to mix them with something sweet. I like to use raspberries in particular, and blueberries work quite nicely, too. There are a couple of pre-made berry and chipotle sauces on the market you can use in a recipe, or you can make your own very easily.

Fisher & Wieser in Fredericksburg, Texas, makes an excellent Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and a Blueberry Chipotle Sauce, either of which will cut your time in half on the following recipes.

Chipotle Recipes

For a delicious Sunday afternoon meal, I like to make a Raspberry Chipotle Chicken Breast recipe with a little cream mixed in to counter the heat. I serve it with some oven-roasted asparagus and steamed white rice, and my family sings my praises for days on end.

Another dish I like to serve in the springtime is a Tamale-Stuffed Cornish Hen baked with Blueberry Chipotle Glaze. It’s quick and easy and very impressive to serve to guests. Good quality pork or vegetarian tamales work best for this dish. A fresh spinach salad or freshly picked field greens will work well as a side dish. Add some Texas-made goat cheese to the salad and a few fresh herbs to enhance the spring flavors we are now benefiting from.

Finally, how about a nice Slow-Cooked Barbecue Chipotle Glazed Spare Ribs recipe? Pork ribs are always popular and are especially delicious this time of year. Our evenings are still cool enough for a warm dish, and this can be made ahead of time and served to a large group for an entrée or as an appetizer. In the summer, the ribs can be served at room temperature. For something a little different, I like to serve them with polenta made with milk and chicken broth. Make sure to have plenty of Parmesan cheese on hand for the topping. I use the "Texas Texas" brand Texas Chipotle Steak Sauce from Sanderson Specialty Foods for the sauce.

Each of these recipes will go nicely with a Pinot Grigio wine or a nice cold beer to counter the spicy heat. Don’t overpower the main entrée with sides that are too complicated. Instead select side dishes that will enhance the flavor of the chicken, hens or spare ribs in the recipes below.

Raspberry Chipotle Chicken Breasts

  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed of gristle and fat, slightly pounded
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Fisher & Wieser Raspberry Chipotle Sauce OR 3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce from canned chipotles can be substituted
  • 1 tablespoon canned fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Fresh raspberries for garnishing (optional)
Heat olive oil in skillet until shimmering. Sauté onion until soft and golden (about 8 minutes). Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Add bottled raspberry sauce and cook, while stirring, for 2 minutes. (If using alternative method pour in raspberry vinegar and cook until there is no more smell of vinegar. Add adobo sauce and stir for one minute more).

Add crushed tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and let simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked thru. Turn chicken over frequently to ensure even cooking. Pour in whipping cream and let simmer on low until sauce thickens, just enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Garnish with fresh raspberries and serve with Tex-Mati rice and oven-roasted asparagus.

Tamale-Stuffed Cornish Hen topped with Blueberry Chipotle Sauce

  • 2 Cornish hens
  • 4 pork-, cheese-, or bean-stuffed tamales (canned is fine)
  • 1/2 bottle Fisher & Wieser Blueberry Chipotle Sauce
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Remove tamales from husks and fill each Cornish Hens cavities with two tamales. Roast the hens for 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh.

Serve immediately topped with Blueberry Chipotle Sauce.

Slow-Cooked Barbecue Chipotle Spare Ribs

  • 4 pounds pork spare ribs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) Texas Texas Chipotle Steak Sauce (or your favorite barbecue or steak sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup white wine
Preheat oven to 250°F.

Prepare sauce by combining honey and steak sauce. Brush mixture over spare ribs reserving half of the sauce. Place in roasting pan with wine and lemon juice and cover tightly with lid or aluminum foil.

Cook the ribs in the center of the oven for about 1-1/2 hours until the meat is very tender and easily comes off the bones.

After the ribs are cooked, increase the oven temp to 425°F, remove the lid and brown the ribs for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, basting frequently with pan juices.

Serve with remaining sauce mixed with the pan juices.

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