Recipe: California Dreamin' Chili Crunch


 Ingredients & Equipment:
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (canola, vegetable or grapeseed)
  • 1/4 cup dried California chilies (dried Anaheim pepper)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, raw peanuts (see notes for substitute info)
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, minced or thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjustable to your desired heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (adjustable to your desired smokiness)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
  • Small pinch of white sugar, to taste
  • Dry skillet
  • Molcajete, mortar and pestle, spice grinder or a food processor
  • Small saucepan
  • Heatproof bowl
  • Spoon
  • Airtight jar for storage

This recipe takes inspiration from the classic Chinese chili crisp, adding a California twist with fresh, vibrant flavors and Mexican spices. It's easy to make, bursting with flavor, and perfect for adding a spicy crunch to any dish.

You also have total reign over the textural components of this condiment - slice your shallots and garlic thin or mince them up, or take the peanuts and the dried chili finer for a more blended final form. The choice is yours!

To make:

Toast the chilies and peanuts*: In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the chilies and peanuts for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and slightly browned. Take them off the heat and let cool slightly.

*Peanuts can be substituted for sunflower seeds or pepitas; a popular Mexican ingredient, these shelled & roasted squash/pumpkin seeds will add a lot of crunch. Be sure to avoid using a salted version if you can.

Grind the dry ingredients: After cooling, remove the stems and seeds from the dried chilies. Using a molcajete or spice grinder, coarsely grind the cooled chilies and peanuts together. Alternatively, pulse briefly in a food processor, being careful not to over-process.

Infuse the oil: In a small saucepan, heat the neutral oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic. As alliums are sensitive to turning bitter when overcooked, cook only for about 30 seconds, until fragrant, but not browned. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Assemble the chili crunch: In a heatproof bowl, combine the cooled oil mixture, ground chili-peanut mixture, chipotle flakes, cumin, smoked paprika, sesame oil, salt, and sugar to taste. Stir well to combine.

Storage: Let the chili crisp cool completely before transferring it to a clean, airtight jar. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 2 months.

Closing notes & tips:

  • Some like it hot: If you prefer a hotter chili crisp, add a pinch of cayenne pepper or increase the red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Plot twists: For a burst of seasonal California freshness, stir in a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh cilantro or lime zest on top, right before serving.
  • Put that stuff on everything: This Chili Crunch is incredibly versatile. Drizzle it over your midnight noodles or moms summertime soups, and it's perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner tacos, eggs. Add a spoonful to salad dressings or marinades to add a little spicy note.
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