Chilis; a little perspective, please
I love serrano chilis because they're not too hot and stay crisp after cooking. Jalapenos can be either to mild or too hot. I can't tell which is which when buying. I love the taste piquin chilis give to food. They're not hot but difficult to find in the market. I'm not sure I like the taste habaneros give to food and they really are too hot.
My question is: just where do ancho, pasillo, and others fit in? How do they compare with serrano, for example? Are they hotter? Do they stay crisp when cooked? What kind of taste do they impart?
Poblano is the large, dark green, triangular, chile. Often in US markets it is labeled pasilla (a California grocery influence). It is relatively mild, though occasional ones are hotter. It is usually roasted and peeled. In Mexico is the favorite one for stuffing (chile relleno). It is also cut into strips and served in a creamy sauce. There is even a 'condensed cream of poblano soup'. The rough equivalent in the USA is Anaheims and the milder New Mexico chiles.
Ancho (wide) is a dried Poblano. It is widely used in Mexican cooking. I think of it as providing the base notes for Mexican cooking. True Pasilla (raisin like) is a long narrow dried chile, similar in flavor and heat level to ancho. Guajillo is a smooth skin dried chile, brighter red in color. Ground guajillo is widely used in Mexico as flavoring on candies and fruit. All three (and some similar dried ones) form the base complex Mexican sauces called moles.
Chili powder (a mix with cumin and oregano) may be largely ground ancho, though various blends of dried New Mexico chiles are used as well.
Jalapeno and serano don't dry well (in the sun), but jalapenos are smoke dried. Chile de arbol (tree chile) is a smaller hot chile that is widely used in Mexico in dried form, often as the base for hot sauces.
Serranos are in the hot group. They are much more slender and fleshy and slightly lighter in color than jalapenos. Jalapenos are hollow and have seeds. You are right about jalapenos, being mild or hot. Chipotles are smoked jalapenos, and are uniformly hot. Anchos are dried poblanos and add an intense, fairly sweet contribution, as do pasillas, which are the dried form of numerous chilis. Pasilla means raisin.
Habaneros are nuclear and I sometimes make a small amount of fresh salsa with them, mostly for egg dishes. El Arbol chilis are hot with very little flesh, but make a great salsa picante.
This is a start - there are many chile experts here!
Thanks Paulj and Veggo. Do the arbol chilis have about the same amount of heat as serrano's? I keep getting ancho and arbol confused. Which would add a nice taste to my regular chili or my chili verde? What about the piquin chili; they're not really hot but add some flavor. Which would go better in my chilis to give it some heat and flavor..arbol or ancho?
re: mucho gordo
paulj and I were typing at the same time and he knows his stuff. I buy the de arbol chiles as loose stock and allready dried, I keep a bag in my pantry and whack them in my little chopper as the need arises. A little goes a long way. They add heat and I like them with scampi and fra diavolo, to digress from Mexican. Anchos are all flavor. Re-hydrate one in a saucer of water for 20 minutes and try it. Delicious, intense flavor. I'm not familiar with the piquin. To your question: de arbol will add heat and ancho will add flavor to your "regular" chili, but chili verde is another discussion.
re: mucho gordo
Piquins are a small chile, usually dried, about the size of a kernel of corn. They tend to have a sharp and fierce up-front heat but not the fruity flavor of something like an ancho. Officially they are ranked about 7 times hotter than jalapenos on the Scoville scale. They are very good for adding bite to more flavorful chiles, plus the plant is very easy to grow (IMO).
Here is the hotness table...may vary within species by factors of ten or more:
Bell, Sweet Italian 0
Peperocini, Pimento 100-500
New Mexico 500-1000
Tabasco sauce (green) 600-800
Ancho, Passila, Poblano, Anaheim 1000-1500
Sandia, Rocotillo 1500-2500
Tabasco sauce, Pasilla 2500-5000
Jalapeno, Chipolte 2500-10,000
Wax Pepper, Guajillo,Puya 5000-10,000
Tabasco Sauce (habanero) 7000-8000
de Arbol, Japone 15,00-30-000
Pequin, Aji, Cayenne 30,000-50,000
Jamaican Hot Pepper 100,000-200,000
Chiltecepin , Pequin, Red Amazon 70,000-75,000
Habenero, Scotch Bonnet 80,000-300,000+
Red Savina Habanero 350,000-577,000
Nago Jolokia, Dorset Naga 855,000-970,000
Std. US Grade Pepper spray 2,000,000-5,000,000
Pure capsaicin 15,000,000+