Another of the marvelous Mexican Chiles the Cascabel Pepper is a member of the Capsicum annuum species and is also known as Cascabel peppers, guajones, coras chile bola and rattle chile which refers to both the shape of the chile as well as the sound the seeds make when a dried chile is shaken.
The Cascabel Pepper is a plump, round, smooth and small chile that ripens from green to red. When dried, the color darkens to a deep reddish-brown with an almost transparent but thick skin. When mature they are about 1-1/2” in diameter.
Unlike many chiles these are known by the same name whether fresh or dried. Recipes that call for Cascabel Pepper chiles typically are referring to the dried chile. The Cascabel Pepper is sometimes confused with the Catarina chile (their seeds also rattle when the chile is dried) and also as a darker cherry chile pepper (due to the similar sizes and shapes).
The Cascabel Pepper is grown in several states throughout Mexico including Coahuila, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco and San Luis Potosi.
The flavor profile of the Cascabel Pepper is woodsy, acidic and slightly smoky with tobacco and nutty undertones. This chile is considered a mild heat chile (1,000-2,500 on the Scoville Heat Scale).
We like to roast these chiles on a hot skillet before using and then they can either be ground or rehydrated in warm water so they can then be made into a paste or a sauce. We also like to pair these with other Mexican chiles for more complex depths of flavor. If you are rehydrating these we recommend not soaking them for more than 20 minutes or they become bitter.
The nutty taste of roasted Cascabel’s pairs equally well with tomatoes or tomatillos in casseroles, enchiladas, fajitas, salsas, sauces, soups, stews, tamales and tacos.
If you’re a fan of flavorful mild chiles you’ll love these – Ancho Chiles, California Chiles, Guajillo Chiles, Mulato Chiles, New Mexico Chiles and Pasilla Negro Chiles.
Cascabel Pepper Chile Salsa
Cascabel Pepper Chiles are the quiet kid in the back of the classroom. Their smaller size and mild heat has kept them off most people’s radar.
Cascabels have a unique flavor that can easily stand up on its own when given the opportunity. Fruity and nutty undertones have created legions of fans devoted to this simpler flavor that somehow tastes of the Earth.
This particular Cascabel Pepper Chile Salsa limits the other ingredients so that the quiet kid can finally be heard loud and clear.
Start by wiping off 7-8 Cascabels with a damp towel as there can be pockets of dirt in the surface folds.
Tear each chile into 2-3 pieces and set aside the stems and seed
Heat a comal or skillet on medium-low heat and press the chiles into the pan until they soften and begin to change color, about 1-2 minutes. This flash-heating wakens some flavors that lie dormant at room temperature.
Cover with hot tap water in a bowl and soak for 10-20 minutes. If you have any floaters you can use a plate or small bowl to keep them submerged.
While the chiles reconstitute, husk and rinse 2 tomatillos and roast them in the oven at 400F. They’ll be ready when they start to turn army green in about 10-15 minutes.
Add the tomatillos and Cascabels to a blender along with 2 peeled garlic cloves. Don’t worry about draining the Cascabels too thoroughly, you can just pick them up out of the soaking liquid.
Add an additional 1/4 cup of soaking liquid that was used to reconstitute the chiles, along with a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
Pulse blend and taste for seasoning.
You’ll end up with a rich, delicious salsa that has a subtle and addictive flavor: slightly acidic with nutty undertones and ample heat.
It can be used on just about anything, with a special nod to grilled meats and/or lazy afternoons centered around tortilla chips.
Pick a few up next time you see them, it’s worth giving them a listen.
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