Mild but still packing moderate heat, these chiles can be roasted and blended into a fiery Cream of Roasted Jalapeño Soup.
The Mexican jalapeño (Capsicum annuum) is one pepper varietal with cultivars of many different faces. Farmed by the Aztecs since antiquity, it is of mild to medium heat compared to other chiles (a few thousand to at most 20,000 Scoville units), depending on the conditions in which it grows. It has proven quite adaptable to commercial development, and can be found in a variety of colors, heat levels and flavors.
Turning red when mature, the green jalapeño enjoys wide popularity with its crisp, fruity taste and tolerable sting. It can be eaten raw or made into hors d’oeuvres, and easily garnish anything from meat dishes to soups. It is essential to many Mexican salsas, and can be stuffed, fried, pickled or served in a cocktail. When dried and smoked, it becomes a chipotle pepper, worthy of an entirely separate culinary chapter.
Roasting over an open flame or kitchen broiler can tame that heat somewhat, as well as lend a nice campfire flavor from their charred flesh. After roasting them whole, removing the stems, seeds and ribs can attenuate their bite considerably while improving their raw vegetal flavor. Pop them in a sealed plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap while hot to finish with a steam and make removing the skins easier.
Little else is needed to capture the flavor of this versatile pepper, including here only a little onion and fat from the butter. Cumin, garlic and fresh herbs like basil or oregano pair equally well, depending on the desired final effect. Avoid cooking with liquors like sherry, wine or tequila, as they may compliment the flavors but the included alcohol (ethanol), a solvent, will only intensify the heat.
The fire of the final product can be adjusted to taste with additional dairy, or at serving with a dollop of sour creme or Mexican crema. Include fried tortilla strips for both complimentary flavor and a textural component.
Cream of Roasted Jalapeño Soup
½ yellow onion
4 c chicken stock
1 c half-and-half
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 Roast the jalapeños over an open flame or under the broiler until blackened and blistered. When cool enough to handle, remove stems, seeds and skin.
2 Chop the onion and sauté along with the jalapeños in a little oil until softened, about 5 min.
3 Add butter and flour, and stir to coat. Slowly add chicken stock, working in each addition to form a light roux. Season to taste.
4 Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 10 min. Puree in batches until smooth, and stir in the dairy to finish.