When Paul Bosland began his horticulture career more than 50 years ago, chile peppers had a much lower profile in the US culinary lexicon. These days, the demand for ever-hotter and more diverse varieties seems limitless.
Bosland’s work as former director of the Chile Pepper Institute and in the breeding and genetics research program at New Mexico State University played no small role in its ubiquity. Under his direction, the university released seeds for more than 30 pepper cultivars and the institute’s mission, “to educate the world about the wonders of chile” expanded to feature an annual teaching garden with guided tours for visitors. Now, his CV also includes an official cookbook.
A professor emeritus, Bosland has authored eight books about chile and signs his email missives with “hottest regards,” but The Official Cookbook of the Chile Pepper Institute (University of New Mexico Press, March 15, $24.95) is the first he’s tackled that’s aimed at the kitchen.
“The purpose of the book is to get people to try all these different things,” Bosland tells SFR. “You know that there are so many chiles around the world but…when I first started, what was exotic was a jalapeño. Then it became a habanero was very exotic, and now, you know, Turkish chiles or Hungarian chiles seem like mainstays. So, it’s really grown. It’s nice to see.”
The partnership with co-author Wendy Hamilton, also retired from the university, grew naturally.
“One of my hobbies has been all things landscaping and horticulture, and when I was a faculty member in the College of Ag and discovered the institute and all that it did, it piqued my interest,” Hamilton says. “And so we talked and talked about this, how there is the garden and how there’s the next step after you plant the chile garden: There’s learning in the kitchen.”
Bosland and Hamilton started the effort in earnest in 2018, but the pandemic—which resulted in the temporary closure of the teaching garden, among other disruptions—led to delays in publication. The result, however, is more than 200 pages of pepper education chock-full of opportunities to understand and experience the variety of aromas, flavors and heat levels of dozens of different peppers via more than 80 recipes.
Pepper shapes might sound like descriptions of a spring fashion collection: pendant, broad-shouldered, slender and curved, conical or upright. Their origins span the globe, with peppers and recipes featured in the cookbook ranging from traditional Thai bird pepper sauces to ceviche with the Peruvian aji limon variety. Recipes include techniques for using peppers in a variety of forms: dried, pickled, infused, roasted, frozen and fresh. Plus, the chapter on each pepper includes a mini lesson in history, geography and even economics (the US hot sauce market clocked $2.71 billion in retail sales in 2021 and that number is expected to grow to $4.38 billion by 2028.)
Not sure if you can find powdered anchos or fresh pepperoncinis when you want them? Never fear, says Hamilton, not only do lots of grocers carry more pepper products than ever, but there’s also the fall harvest, and the next year or the one after...
“It’s available, so it’s not as hard as you think,” she says. “And now it’s also the time of year when everybody’s going through their seed catalogs, so the inspiration is there to start thinking about what they’re gonna plant in their kitchen garden. And then what recipes they’re going to make this summer, so it’s a cyclical thing.”
Hamilton says many of the recipes are personal favorites. She also collected recipes from friends, family, colleagues and students. We can attest to the tasty use of pepper flavors and heat in the two we tried and happily report we had no problem finding indgredients at El Paisano’s newest store at 4405 Airport Road.
Skirt Steak with Chile Apple Relish
It’s an unusual combination, but when coffee and chile mingle with meat, the flavor is extraordinary. The relish adds an exclamation point!
- 1 tbsp. coffee (finely ground)
- 1 tbsp. ancho chile powder
- 2 tsps. kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsps. brown sugar
- 1/4 lb mild green chiles such as poblanos (deveined, deseeded, cut in half)
- 1/2 Granny Smith apple (quartered and cored)
- 1/2 small yellow onion (cut into thick slices)
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp oregano leaves
- 1/2 tsp. lime juice
Heat a grill to medium high (350°F to 450°F). In a small bowl, combine the coffee, chile powder, salt and brown sugar. Rub all over the steak and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Combine the green chiles, apple and onion with the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill the steak, turning once (dry rub on the meat will be very dark), 8 to 10 minutes total for medium-rare. Meanwhile, place a piece of aluminum foil on the grill and lay the chiles, apple and onion on the foil and grill until lightly charred all over, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer everything to a cutting board, tent the steak with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Next, chop the chiles, apple and onion and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the oregano and lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and top with chile apple relish.