A few weeks ago I got an email from Marx Foods asking if I wanted to review some of their dried chili peppers. I thought to myself, "I like getting free stuff in the mail, and peppers would be fun to take pictures of too," so I said, "Sure".
I opted for the "organic" sampler, which included the following varieties: Chipotle, Aji Amarillo, Aji Cereza Chilies, Aji Limo Rojo Chilies, New Mexico Chilies, and Aji Panca. Almost all of these were labeled as "hot" or "very hot", and that was not a lie! So I used them in small doses.
First, I made these slow-cooked pork tacos, substituting three dried peppers for the six fresh peppers called for. I will not lie to you, when I added these guys to the hot pan I cried like a baby. They smelled amazing, but wow--goggles next time, I think!
Fortunately, some of the hotness cooked-off (I don't know if that's really possible, but that's what it seemed like) leaving all of the flavor and none of the pain...and some pretty freaking awesome pork tacos!
Next, I decided to make chili pepper flakes so I could use them in eggplant pasta sauce. I basically followed this method (roasting them, then grinding them up), except that I used my food processor and only ground the peppers up until I had flakes, rather than powder. (If you do this, please use gloves...and hold your breath when you open the food processor, trust me.)
The thing that's actually kind of cool about this is that, by grinding the peppers yourself, you could make your pepper flakes as hot (or not) as you wanted. (Yeah, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm kind of a wuss about hot-hot peppers.) I'm planning to mix these leftover hotties with some little mole peppers from my garden for a nice medium-ish blend.
The downside? Marx only sells in bulk quantities, so you have to buy at least a pound at a time.
However, that being said, even with shipping, the prices are comparable to my local grocery store, and I think--just from the smell and texture--these were quite a bit fresher. (I think my store has low turn-over.) Even my fairly well-stocked store only has about three kinds of dried pepper; Marx has about twenty-five, so if you're a pepper lover it's definitely worth a looksie.
(And while you're there check out the crab too--I am so ordering some crab from them soon! Would it be evil to order a whole ten pounds, lock my doors, and lay in my pajamas and eat crab for a week?)