Packing heat

Customers’ demand for spicy foods brings a wide variety of chiles to menus.

Published in FSD Update

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

Upping the ante

Chiles have taken root in a new concept that opened in January called The Bistro at McKay-Dee Hospital, in Ogden, Utah.

“We’re offering three sandwiches and three salads a week on a rotation,” says Executive Chef Tyler Ehlert. “The flavor profile for the concept allowed us to play with chiles more. We wanted to offer something special with a low price point, and chiles are a great way to add flavor and heat and just a whole new level of excitement to items.”

One example is The Bistro’s pulled pork barbecue sandwich, which has an ancho chile barbecue sauce. For the sauce, Ehlert takes dried ancho chiles and mixes them with apple cider to make a “lovely, warm, hot-to-the-mouth sauce.” Ehlert likes working with ancho chiles because they aren’t too mild and are adaptable.

Ehlert also uses Thai chiles in a Thai chicken lettuce wrap at The Bistro. “We put a little of [the chiles] in the sautéed chicken and then I put a smattering of it in with the peanut dipping sauce,” he says. “The wrap also features carrots, celery, onion, bell peppers and a hoisin brown sugar ginger sauce. Those chiles are really hot and it really kicks the level of that dish up a notch.”

Schools also are getting into the chile game, according to Kathleen Sanderson, food consultant at Foodservice Solutions. Sanderson, in conjunction with the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service, recently helped develop nacho recipes that use chipotles for K-12 schools.

“We came up with a barbecue chipotle sauce as a way to deliver the sweetness of the pears with some heat,” Sanderson says. The pear chipotle barbecue sauce is used as both the base and topping for the nachos. The nachos feature ground turkey, onions, Greek yogurt instead of traditional sour cream, cheddar cheese and scallions.

“We also use that sauce for ribs and pizza,” Sanderson says. “The pears deliver a sweetness to the barbecue sauce that would normally come from brown sugar or something similar. Chipotles are nice for schools because they come canned, so they are easy to work with and they’ve got that really rich smoky flavor that you work so hard to achieve.”

Layers of flavor

Marc Powers, executive chef for Bon Appétit at the University of Redlands, in California, has used chiles to great effect at PACCON, a conference for small boutique universities.

Powers, along with several other college Bon Appétit chefs, developed a menu based on a Southwest theme that featured quail stuffed with chorizo and apple with a jalapeño-sage jelly on top.

“We also did ancho-dusted scallops, where I ground up the ancho peppers really fine,” Powers says. “For dessert we did a habanero mocha semifreddo, which kind of messed with your mind a little because it was cold, then you get the chocolate flavor so it’s sweet, then you get the floral and the heat from the habanero. It’s not overwhelming so you really get to experience all those different flavors.

“I like the versatility of working with chiles,” Powers adds. “Most people just go for heat, especially when you are young, you go for what’s the hottest you can get. But when you get a little more seasoned in the industry you need to temper that and you find out that a lot of these peppers have more subtle flavors besides the heat.”

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