A few weeks ago I went on a pantry cleaning expedition. You see my pantry space is incredibly limited. In fact, I don’t really even have a pantry. It’s just a single cabinet that I keep all my canned/dried stuff in.
Ideally, it would be perfectly organized but it pretty much always looks like a bomb went off close by. Occasionally though I do get inspired when I notice that I have, say, four different bags of almonds.
While I was cleaning out my “pantry” this time around I found, tucked way back in the back, a gallon plastic bag with a random assortment of dried chiles in it. Of course, I had lost them long ago and already replaced them all, but dried chiles really keep forever so I figured they were probably still good.
So I put them to use! I’ve been meaning to make a good batch of chili powder for awhile now and this gave me the tools I needed!
1) Add your dried peppers in a single layer to a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes, turning a few times throughout.
2) Cool peppers for a few minutes. They should be very crunchy. Remove the stems from each pepper and shake out as many seeds as you can.
3) Grind up the dried peppers either using a food processor, a mortar and pestle, or just put them in a plastic bag and mash them with a mallet or a rolling pin.
4) The chili powder will keep for months in a plastic bag.
5) Rub your steak with the chili powder, covering the steaks in an even layer. Also sprinkle with salt and pepper and press the spices into the steaks.
6) Grill the steaks over medium-high. Depending on thickness and doneness you'll probably need to cook them for 8-12 minutes, turning once half-way through.
7) If you're using a cast iron skillet, add a tiny amount of oil to the pan over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add your steak and sear for 3 minutes per side. Then finish in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes depending on thickness and doneness.
8) Rest steaks for 5 minutes before cutting.
Making the Chile Powder
If you’ve never made chili powder before, it’s pretty straightforward and almost guaranteed to be better than anything you can find in the store.
I used 4 New Mexico red chiles, 3 ancho chiles, and 1 chipotle chile. You could, of course, change this up, but I found this to be a really good ratio. It’s wasn’t a really hot powder at the end of the day, but it had a ton of chile flavor going on.
Anyway, just lay all your chiles out on a large baking dish.
Bake them at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning them once or twice throughout. Then pull them out and let them cool off. They should be really crispy at this point. Like you should be able to just crumble them in your hands.
Remove the stem from each pepper and shake out as many seeds as you can. It’s okay if there are a few seeds left though. You don’t need to be super-thorough about it.
You now have a few options for how to actually make the powder. You could just throw all your peppers into a food processor or coffee grinder and grind them up. You could also just put them all in a plastic bag and beat the heck out of them with a mallet or rolling pin.
For this batch though, I used my cool new mortar and pestle to grind them up!
What I love about the mortar and pestle is that the texture isn’t over-processed. So you have mostly powder but occasionally there are small flakes of chiles also and it just makes for a much more interesting spice mixture.
I’ve made chili powder using all of those techniques though and it always works out. You can store the finished product for months in a tightly sealed bag. Mine never really lasts that long though because I put this stuff on all kinds of things.
My first use for this powder was some nice steaks I picked up. The thing to remember about rubbing steaks with something like this is that you can go pretty heavy on it. Some of the seasoning will fall off as it cooks and you want to make sure you have plenty of flavor to match the flavors of the meat.
Also be sure to season with some salt and pepper and really press the spices into the steaks.
Ideally, you could grill these guys, but I had to use my trusty cast iron skillet which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just heats up the house.
If you’re using cast iron, add a tiny bit of neutral oil to the pan and then sear on each side over high heat for about 3-4 minutes. Finish in the oven at 350 degrees for another 5-10 minutes depending on how thick your steak is and how you want it cooked. For medium rare, I finished it for about 5 minutes in the oven.
If you’re grilling it then you can obviously just keep it on the grill over medium-high heat until it’s ready (probably 8-10 minutes total).
Then transfer them to a cutting board to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Resting the steaks is probably the most important part of cooking a juicy steak. You don’t want to cut into them right away or all the juice will just flow out of the steak. Letting it rest gives the steak a chance to finish cooking and also lets the juices redistribute through the meat. I sliced mine up for serving after it rested.
This steak had some spice to it but it wasn’t too hot at all. Just really good flavors. I served it with a baked potato and salad and it was a really awesome meal.
The leftover steak is perfect for a steak salad the next day also.
Steak or no steak, homemade chili powder is where it’s at.