‘The Mexican Chile Pepper Cookbook’ features recipes featuring this spicy star

“The Mexican Chilli Cookbook” by Dave DeWitt and José C. Marmolejo

There’s a new cookbook that’s sure to capture the imaginations — and taste buds — of many New Mexicans.

It’s “The Mexican Chilli Cookbook: The Soul of Mexican Home Cooking” by Dave DeWitt and José C. Marmolejo.

The introduction reveals two of the captivating features of the book.

One is the “wide selection of recipes in which chilies are the main ingredient, including chili rellenos, salsas, and pickled chilies.”

(Pickled peppers?)

Dave DeWitt

Another feature is the book’s regional focus on hot and spicy—and some mild—recipes from most of Mexico’s 32 states.

So get ready to discover the 64 varieties of peppers from all over the country. Readers will benefit from the five-plus-page chili pepper glossary at the back of the book.

The authors advise, however, that the nomenclature of chile in Mexico can be confusing because different names are given to the same chile in different regions.

Additionally, they warn readers that some varieties have multiple names and some names describe multiple varieties.

Here are some glossary listings:

⋄ Chocolatey. Another name for a pasilla, a long, then sweet, black pepper used in mole sauces. Cultivated mainly in Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Jalisco. Has hints of chocolate and raisin flavor.

⋄ Chilcoxle. A dried yellow pepper used in the mole amarillo of Oaxaca. Moles are popular thick chili sauces.

⋄ Chiltepín. A spherical wild pepper ranging from ¼ to ½ inch in diameter. Extremely hot.

⋄ Chipotle. Any smoked chili pepper, but usually referring to a smoked jalapeño until black and stiff.

⋄ Corazón. A spicy, heart-shaped poblano pepper grown in Durango. Poblano, one of the most common Mexican peppers, is called ancho in its dried form. A statue in Mexico City honors the poblano.

⋄ Habanero. Cultivated in the Yucatán Peninsula, it was once considered the hottest pepper in the world.

DeWitt said habanero is his favorite regional Mexican chili.

“It makes a salsa and you can dilute it with onions and tomatoes. It is an extremely wonderful flavor. It’s more floral because of the aroma,” he said.

⋄ Japón (“Japan”). A small pointed pepper grown in Veracruz and San Luis Potosí.

Interestingly, several chili listings in the glossary refer to New Mexico.

A list, “New Mexican”, formerly called Anaheim, is grown in Chihuahua and other northern Mexican states and exported to the United States.

DeWitt said New Mexico varieties are primarily grown in Chihuahua for export because the state of New Mexico cannot meet demand.

Of course, the over 150 recipes are the heart of the cookbook.

But the first part contains an informative chapter with a brief history of peppers in Mexico.

The book states that in southern Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula, chili peppers have been part of the human diet since around 7500 BC, before the Maya and Aztec civilizations.

Chilis were originally used as a wild harvested spice. Then they were domesticated and became an important food during the rise of the Olmec culture around 1000 BC, the book says.

DeWitt is an Albuquerque-based food historian and a leading authority on chili peppers, spices, and spicy foods worldwide. He has been a co-producer of the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show for many years.

Marmolejo is a Mexican chili expert who lives in Mexico City.

He owned and operated Don Alfonso Foods, an Austin, Texas-based company specializing in Mexican specialties.

“José came up with many family recipes in the book,” DeWitt said. “We’ve been friends for a long time and we’re finally co-authoring a book together. I think if I’m writing about Mexican peppers, I might as well have a Mexican co-author.

DeWitt said many Mexican chili products can be found on the mexgrocer.com website.

Dave DeWitt

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