Chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans, green onions and avocado

Go ahead. Say it. I know you’re thinking it, so might as well. You think I’m a curmudgeon. A party pooper. A kill joy. See that wasn’t so difficult was it? And all because of one simple thing: I’ve had it up to here with Halloween.

I can hear the collective gasps. The shaking of heads. The pursing of lips and knowing glances. But if I’m the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween, then so be it. Halloween? No thanks.

What’s my problem? It’s simple. Halloween has gone way overboard and OTT. It used to be kids dressed up in homemade costumes. Bobbing for apples. Ghost stories and pillow cases to hold candy. It was simple, sweet and fun.

But today? Today it’s a competitive sport. Costumes are more tricked out than outfits on the Paris runway. No more pillow cases (heaven forbid) – now we’re talking about the equivalent of a Gucci handbag to hold candy. And don’t get me started on the lights, the gigantic tombstones and spiders that decorate front yards. It makes the Macy’s Day parade look like a small town country fair.

I could almost stomach it until the time a kid stuck his hand in the bowl of candy and grabbed a whopping handful and wouldn’t let go. His parents smiled proudly. So this year, I’m closing the curtains, turning off the lights and hunkering down until it’s all over.

The only pumpkin at my place will be this chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans. I’ll serve it with a sassy glass of red (or two) and wait until the kids are gone, Halloween is over and it’s safe to go outside. Halloween? Bah humbug.

Chipotle roasted pumpkin with borlotti beans, green onions & avocado

Serves 4

Don’t use the pumpkin you’d use for carving. Instead, look for a small pumpkin like the ‘Uchiki Kuri’, also known as the Winter, Onion, Hokkaido or Potimarron squash. It has a gorgeous yellowy-orange flesh with a lovely sweetness. If you can’t find that, then try a silvery-blue-skinned ‘Crown Prince’ or even a butternut squash.

Preheat oven to 425°

1 small pumpkin, about 1 ½ lbs

½ – 1 tsp Chipotle rub & mix

½ tsp Chimayo blend chile powder

2 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil

10 oz borlotti or other beans, cooked

½ avocado, peeled and diced

Small bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

Chile pequin

Salt

Slice the pumpkin into wedges – you don’t need to peel it. Toss with the oil and Chipotle rub & mix, the Chimayo red chile powder and a generous sprinkle of salt. Roast in the hot oven until you can insert a knife easily into the flesh of the pumpkin. If it’s getting a bit too brown, turn the heat down to 350°.

Arrange the pumpkin and beans on a platter. Garnish with the avocado, cilantro or parsley and the green onions and a generous sprinkle of Chile pequin.

Slow cooked lamb with chipotle, lime & honey

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Plated lamb

Turkey is a lot like house guests. The first day, you’re thrilled to see them and can’t believe it’s been so long since their last visit. Day two, you’re cordial. Day three, you offer to help them pack and call a taxi.

Don’t get me wrong – turkey at Thanksgiving is a treat, a tradition and literally the gift that keeps on giving. But that’s where the problem lies; at some point you get tired of leftovers. You’ve made turkey pie, tetrazzini, tacos and of course endless sandwiches. Eventually, you’re ready to see the back of turkey and can barely muster the energy to dump the carcass in a pot to make stock.

It’s exacerbated by the fact that many of us are going to whip up another bird in less than a month’s time. You do a frantic google search for ‘turkey leftover recipes’ and sigh deeply.

So what’s the answer? It’s time for something new. Pop the rest of the bird in the freezer and change culinary directions. At Los Chileros HQ, we fancy a slow cooked lamb shoulder with a spiky, zesty lime, honey, chipotle marinade. It’s the perfect way to wake up dulled taste buds and ideal for winter weather.

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You marinade the lamb overnight then cook it at high heat for about 20 minutes before turning the temperature right down and letting it go nice and slow until the meat falls off the bone. It’s even better if you eat it the next day when the flavors have really had a change to mingle and marry.

Eat it on its own, wrapped up in tortillas or on a bun – the choice is yours. It’s heaven with a bit of slaw and some dill pickles. It will make loads but invite some turkey-fatigued friends over or stash some in the freezer to have on hand at Christmas when you’re wishing the leftover turkey would scram. Go ahead and make it, you’ll thank me in a few week’s time.

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Slow cooked lamb shoulder with chipotle, lime & honey

If you can’t find lamb shoulder or don’t like it (heaven forbid), then you can opt for pork or beef – just go for a cut that likes it low and slow. The good news? These are usually cheaper too so you’ll get more taste and keep a bit of cash in your pocket, handy when you’ve got all those Christmas credit card bills to pay. But let’s not dwell on that thought…

Serves 8+

1 lamb shoulder, bone-in about 7lbs

2 Tbsp Los Chileros Chipotle rub & mix

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp honey

Salt

Place the lamb in a roasting pan. Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub over the lamb. Refrigerate overnight if possible. The next day, remove the pan from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400°F Generously sprinkle some sea salt on the lamb. Place the lamb in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 225°F. Take the lamb out of the oven, cover the roasting pan with a lid or with aluminium foil – you want to make sure you’re keeping the moisture locked inside. Return to the oven and cook at the low temperature for 3-4 hours then check the lamb – it should be falling off the bone – if not cook longer.

When the lamb is done, take it out of the pan and place on a cutting board and cover with aluminium foil. Strain the cooking juices from the pan into a measuring cup or container and place it in the fridge. This will encourage the fat to rise to the top and solidify. Remove the fat and discard then return the juices to the pan. Shred the meat and put it in the pan with the juices. Give a toss to make sure all the meat is coated. Return to the oven to warm before serving with flat bread, rolls, over couscous or rice.

Double-Smoked Lamb Chops

It’s an indulgence. It’s not for everyday. And it ain’t cheap. But life is short so when you’re in splurge mode, go for French-cut lamb chops. The ‘French’ means that the bones are exposed. This makes them lovely to look at and fun to eat because you can pick them up like a lollypop and chow down. Forget the fork and knife – this is adult finger food.

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These chops are perfect for the BBQ – a quick minute or two over high heat and they’re good to go. A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and you’re talking seriously tasty (and I mean lick the plate tasty). A salad and some roasted potatoes and you’ve officially died and gone to heaven.

The only thing that makes them better is a little marinade to add a flavor punch. One of my favorites is a combo of two chile powders, both with a smoky edge to them. Chipotle gives the marinade smoke and heat while smoked sweet paprika is milder but with a lovely smoky aroma all its own.

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If you haven’t used smoked sweet paprika (called pimento dulce ahumado in Spanish), you’re in for a treat. It hails from Spain where it’s made in Murcia (eastern Spain) and the La Vera region of Extremadura (western Spain). You can find it smoked and not smoked. Both types come in dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet) and picante (spicy-hot)

Before you think I wrote the book about pimenton, I didn’t but I found the person who did. Her name is Janet Mendel and she’s got a great blog called My Kitchen in Spain. She’s a journalist and cookbook author and has lived in Spain for a longtime. If you’re having trouble finding smoked sweet paprika, never fear. In Santa Fe, we find it at The Spanish Table and they do mail order.

Double-Smoked Lamb Chops

French-cut lamb chops are typically sold in a rack that has 7 or 8 rib chops. You can ask your friendly meat guy or gal to cut the rack into individual ribs or do it yourself.

7-8 French-cut lamb chops, around 1 to 1¼ lbs.
½ tsp chipotle chile powder
½ tsp smoked mild paprika (pimenton dulce ahumado)
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

Mix the chipotle chile powder, sweet pimenton, rosemary, garlic and olive oil together. Place the lamb chops in a bowl or large plastic baggie and pour the marinade over them to coat.

photophoto copy 21 Place the lamb chops in the fridge and marinade for several hours or over night. Before grilling, remove the lamb chops from the marinade and sprinkle with salt. Grill over high heat for about 2 minutes per side for medium rare. Serve with wedges of lemon and enjoy!

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Chile Portrait: Chipotle

EVER WONDER WHO ATE THE FIRST LOBSTER?

Or who figured out how to make flour? Or – hats off – the person who decided that pressing olives might be a good idea? Well, add to that list of unsung culinary heroes whoever decided to smoke and dry a jalapeño chile pepper.

Because the result is the chipotle chile. The word chipotle comes from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli and translates into chile + smoke. It’s been the method for preserving thick-skinned jalapeños in Mexico for who knows how long. Sure, it’s a practical way of preserving them but it’s a lot more than that – it’s a way to transform the flavor that is nothing short of magical.

To get a better idea of what makes a chipotle so special we spoke to Edward Ogaz of Seco Spices. Edward’s family has been farming in Hatch, New Mexico for three generations and he and his wife have owned Seco since the late ‘90’s.

Edward is incredibly passionate about all things chile but he really lights up when he talks about chipotle. “We let the jalapeños ripen on the vine until they’re red. Then we pick them, clean them and lay them out on large mesh racks. Then we smoke them with wood smoke – we like mesquite or sometimes oak.”

We asked if he smokes the jalapeño first or dries it. The answer? Both. The jalapeño is smoked and dried at the same time. In all it takes between 12 to 18 hours of slow delicate smoking and drying. During that time, the chile loses moisture and the color depends to a deep burgundy almost black color. The flavor intensifies too, as it takes on a distinctive smokiness. You’ll read comparisons to dried fruit, chocolate with hints of sweetness. We just think it tastes awesome.

“If you’ve got, say, 6 or 7 pounds of jalapeño to start off with, you’ll end up with only about 1 pound of chipotle at the end,” says Edward. It’s a seriously labor intensive process but Edward won’t cut corners. “You’ll find chipotle out there now where they’ve injected it with smoke flavoring but it’s nothing like the real thing.”

So what do you do with this wrinkly guy? You’ll find chipotle available in powder, whole chiles, or canned in adobo sauce (a piquant sauce made with tomatoes and vinegar). Chipotle is great in salsas, stews, and soups. You can also make a mean barbeque sauce with chipotle. It’s lovely made into a glaze with butter and sugar for toasted nuts.

Chipotle’s got some heat but it’s not OTT and the complexity of the chile flavor married with the smokiness is out of this world. Who knew that something so wrinkled could be so lip-your-lips gorgeous?

CHIPOTLE CHILE MAC ‘N’ CHEESE

Let’s face it, the world would be a kinder, gentler place if everyone ate more Mac ‘n Cheese.  It’s a happy food that just makes you feel so gosh darn good. Now the good is great thanks to a dash (or two) of chipotle chile powder. The chipotle gives it a smoky lusciousness that is sublime. Do not blame us if you eat it all yourself.

Serves 3-4

½ pound penne pasta
2 cups milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ tsp Chipotle Chile Powder, or more to taste
Salt to taste
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Breadcrumbs:
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small clove garlic finely chopped
¼ tsp Chipotle Chile Powder, or more to taste
1 cup coarse bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

To make the breadcrumbs, heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic, chipotle chile powder and breadcrumbs, stirring until the crumbs are golden brown. Season lightly with salt and set aside.

For the pasta, add the penne to a pot of salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking make your cheese sauce.  Heat the milk in a pan on the stove or in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour and whisk over low heat for 2 minutes. Do not brown or burn the flour. Add the milk slowly to the flour and butter mixture, stirring with a whisk and ensuring no lumps form. Add the chipotle chile powder, season with salt, and continue to cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Add the grated cheese and stir to melt. Drain the penne – do not overcook, it should be al dente. Combine the penne with the cheese sauce and ensure the pasta is well coated.

Butter a flameproof baking dish and fill it with the penne and sauce.  Top with the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven until hot, about 20-25 minutes.