Now that the weather's turned hot, I've got a big craving for really spicy food. Sadly, authentic Szechuan food (like at this place in San Francsico--spiciest food I've ever had) and vindaloo aren't too readily available in Birmingham (if anyone knows a place, please share), so I have to cook my own. The best and easiest way to add lots of heat to any dish? Canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Chipotles are simply smoked jalapeño peppers, and when they're canned, it's almost always in adobo sauce, a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar. Chipotles measure up to about 50,000 Scoville units, which is hot but not astronomically so--habaneros can get up to 200,000. The great thing about the adobo sauce is that it picks up the heat from the peppers and disperses it very evenly throughout the dish. Instead of fiery chunks of pepper in an otherwise not-so-hot dish, there's an even heat level in every bite.
Two of my favorite chipotle recipes are Chipotle-Bacon Corn Bread and Honey-Chipotle Grilled Corn (apparently I like my chipotles with corn), but we've got hundreds to choose from.
Read recipes closely though: "1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce" means one individual pepper, not one whole can of peppers. I've gotten several e-mails from readers who've made that mistake, and it's a pretty unpleasant one to make.
So what do you do with the rest of the can after you've opened it to use a pepper or two? If you're gonna use it within a week, cover the can with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Otherwise, freeze the leftovers. You've got two options: Pour the peppers and sauce into a bag and freeze to thaw and use later, or make spice cubes (ha!) by pureeing everything together and freezing in an ice cube tray. One regular cube is between one and two tablespoons, or about half a pepper.