Hot peppers: Anaheim, Habanero, Serrano, Jalapeño
I’m pretty excited about this Dueling Duleys in particular, because it’s going to play a direct part in a different dish that will require the use of what we come up with here. I’m not saying what that dish is going to be though, so you’ll have to wait a little while and check back in a few days when we get it posted. All I’ll say is that I’m looking forward to the end result and I feel it’s going to make a delicious addition to this site.
This is going to be a very basic challenge, but an important one nonetheless. Once again, for this challenge we’ve decided not to use the traditional rules we established years ago. If you’re interested in checking them out, I have a handy little link: The Rules.
Instead, we’ll be using whatever ingredients we feel would be the most useful. With that being said, there shouldn’t be any weird ingredients or ingredients that go above and beyond what you’d normally use for a breaded and fried topping. Woops, I wasn’t supposed to let that slip…
Forget I said that.
This challenge started with the intention of making a particular food item (still not telling what it is), and realizing that a certain barbecue sauce would go super well with jalapeño straws. I call them straws, but they might end up being sliced into rings or even some other shape. So that led to the idea of a challenge. Vanessa and I could experiment and decide exactly how we wanted to make these breaded pepper crisps.
Originally, we only discussed using jalapeño peppers, but that quickly changed and we decided we were going to try using some other types of hot peppers as well. So we stopped by the grocery store and grabbed a couple Anaheim peppers, a handful of serrano peppers, and a dozen habanero peppers.
*Update: Vanessa is writing her portion of this post on her laptop in the kitchen and her head is about to explode with ideas. She came in and asked me a question about freezing pureed vegetables and now I have another idea of what I can do with the spicy peppers!
Yes, what started off as a humble heart-healthy McDonald’s breakfast, quickly became a brunch-turned-business-meeting, that led to a never ending churn of ideas in my head. I LOVE coming up with new ideas. I HATE trying to narrow down the options. I feel like this is going to be a tough swim.
So, the idea is to make some sort of crispy chili pepper topping. With this in mind, it’s the combination of said topping with the other ingredients in the dish that will really make for something fantastic, but let’s not forget that these crispy goodies should also taste good stand-alone.
It’s simple enough to throw some crumbles on a vegetable and dunk it in the fryer, but I wanted to make something with depth. Spicy is good, but I also want it to be pleasant to eat. The idea had started simply with jalapeños, but there was a quick agreement that any kind of chili was fair. …Now the possibilities have become endless. Where do I begin?
I have two ways of going about it in mind: a certain shape to slice the chilies of choice, (both yet undecided); or a batter covered purée of chilies. Again, I want something that will be a good stand alone snack but will also meld well with other flavors. For ideas I went to the two pages Andrew had made about onion rings. I also have my own chicken fried pork chop recipe in the back of my head.
I decided to start with the puréed option first, as it seemed the most complicated and likely to fail. Then I would always have what I could consider the simpler, for a fall back.
With my first two experiments, bacon fried jalapeños, and jalapeño stuffed potato fufu, I reconfirmed both of my main desires; they need to be extra crispy and I want good seasonings to bring warm flavors. The slices of jalapeño fried in bacon fat tasted great, but lacked depth, and didn’t feel very original. The starchy jalapeño filled potato fufu was very promising, however the flavor of the jalapeño was getting lost with all the starch.
Next I moved on to a blended mix of several fresh chilies, garlic, and dried chili powder that I carefully rolled in cornstarch, egg, then panko. This made an OUTSTANDING little flavorful ball with the amazing crunchy coating I was looking for, but it really was more of an hors d’ouerves concept than something to put on bur… wait, never mind I said that. Anyway, not that you couldn’t just make the balls into small medallions instead…
Alright. The cornstarch, egg, panko, as always, was working very well. “I’m sticking with that.” Now to decide on a shape. I thought that getting bits of multiple kind of chili in each bite was still a very good idea, but instead of blending them all together, this time I thinly julienned them, then did my signature breading line-up; cornstarch, egg, panko.
To begin with, I didn’t really want to mess with the Anaheim peppers. I felt the rings would end up being too large for what I wanted to use it for, so basically that was eliminated immediately. I was left with habanero, jalapeño, and serrano peppers. I’m looking at the serrano peppers, and though they’re small I think I could cut them at an angle or as some people call it a hard angle or on the bias.
In the picture below you can see that I started by cooking 6 batches of 3 slices each. Beginning on the left are the habanero peppers, followed by the jalapeños, and finally the serrano peppers on the far right. For the bottom row, I simply dipped the pepper slices in milk and then straight into flour. Nothing else.
The top row of pepper slices were dipped in milk before being put in a mixture of flour and cornstarch. You can probably spot the difference between the top and bottom slices pretty ease. The bottom row of flour coated slices had broken apart more, exposing the pepper skin to direct oil. The top row on the other hand contains cornstarch in addition to flour and ended up sticking together better. Up til this point I have not tasted the fried peppers.
Wish me luck, I’m now going to go taste test the peppers.
*Walks to kitchen. Tastes 6 different slices of peppers. Ponders life for a moment. Returns to computer. Mouth burning.*
Well I can say I was a bit surprised by the results. I could tell immediately that the flour and cornstarch mixture used to fry the top row of peppers had been salted. That’s something I forgot about. I was also wrong about what pepper I would ultimately end up using. I really thought it was going to be the habanero, but after the taste test, it really wasn’t the flavor I was looking for. Surprisingly, the serrano pepper had the best overall flavor in my opinion. It was definitely spicier than the jalapeño was but it contained a bit more of the flavor I was looking for.
So I think it’s going to come down to the either the jalapeño or the serrano pepper as my ultimate pick for these hot pepper chips. However, I’m leaning heavily toward the serrano peppers at this point. They’re certainly no joke when it comes to heat though.
FINALLY! I think this is it! The thin sliced chilies aren’t over powered by starch, and you can choose hotter or sweeter chilies to taste, and they are crunchy! The last part of the equation was depth of flavor, and this I covered with a salt, garlic, ground red chili, and cinnamon; my secret little ingredient.
The best thing about this combination is the adaptability. If you want more green flavors use Anaheim. If you want it blazing hot use all chilies like habanero. Desire NO heat? Use bell peppers! This will also play really nicely over North African foods such as tagine or shakshouka, so it doesn’t have to be Hispanic, especially since we were coming up with a topping for _____. Ah Ha Ha! You thought I was going to spill it!
In the end, I’m sure I’ll go ahead and use the serrano peppers, but I think the best way of going about this is to slice them thin and at an angle. This will provide larger chips, yet keep them thin enough that the ratio of breading will be higher, therefore mellowing out some of the spiciness. Serrano peppers are rather long and slender, so not slicing at an angle will produce very small rings.
I’m not intending for these pepper chips to kill anyone’s mouth. It needs to blend with another flavor while packing just a little heat. And that could prove to be a bit tricky with this pepper, but I think it will work just fine.
In the end, I plan on keeping this as simple as possible and letting the flavor of the serrano pepper speak for itself. One final note; I found that adding some white vinegar to the milk gave the pepper chips an extra little burst of flavor. It’s subtle though. It’s up to you if you want to use the vinegar or not.
Crispy Fresh Chili ‘Straws’
By: Vanessa Duley
- 2 each jalapeño, serrano, and habanero chilies; seeded
- 1/8 t sea salt
- 1/4 t ground de arbol chili
- 1/8 t garlic powder
- 1/8 t cinnamon
- corn starch
- 2 eggs
- oil for frying
- Slice each of the chilies into thin strips.
- In a large bowl toss the sliced chilies with the salt, ground de arbol, garlic powder, and cinnamon.
- Whip the two eggs in a small bowl to incorporate the yolks. Also have a small bowl with some cornstarch, and a third bowl with a cup or two of panko.
- Coat each strip generously in corn starch, then dip it into the egg. Let the excess drip off and roll in the panko.*
- With oil heated to 350°F, fry the breaded chilies until just golden. Allow to drain and cool on a drying rack.
*You can do each strip individually, it’s not terribly time consuming for a batch this size, or you can group them loosely, cross-hatched in clumps. This will make more of a ‘cake’ with a lot more breading, but it still works well for a lot of dishes, especially something like a burger.
Crunchy Breaded Serrano Pepper Rings
By: Andrew Duley
Serves: Varies, but this makes enough rings for 4 large hamburgers
- 5 – 6 fresh serrano peppers (somewhat thinly sliced and at a large angle)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons milk (3 tablespoons milk if not using vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar (optional)
- Place the serrano peppers on a cutting board and begin cutting slices from each. These slices should be a little on the thinner side and cut at an angle no less than 45 degrees, so the slices or rings are larger than if simply cut into rings. It’s likely that you’ll get 5 – 6 nice slices from each pepper.
- Begin preheating the frying oil over medium heat until it reaches 350° F (roughly 175° C). Cast iron dishes work well because they retain heat and keep the oil a consistent temperature. Just make sure you have enough oil to completely cover the breaded serrano rings. An inch or so of oil should be fine.
- Mix milk and vinegar (if using) together in a small bowl.
- Whisk flour, cornstarch, and salt together in a different bowl until blended.
- Drop a few serrano rings into the milk and then remove and place in the flour and cornstarch mix. Make sure each piece is completely coated. I prefer using a fork for this job but hands are quicker.
- Place rings into hot oil and let cook for 2 – 3 minutes flipping occasionally. If you like extra crispy rings, let them cook a little longer.
- Remove rings with a slotted spoon and let dry either on a wire rack or paper towels.
- Use as a crunchy topping on your favorite burgers, salads, sandwiches or to add some extra spice to soups.