Being a born and bred Texan, it's hard to ignore the Mexican influence in our heritage. Especially the chiles. While trying to find new ways to stay true to my Texas roots, I came across a small spindly little plant in my yard. It had small, brightly colored peppers all over it and carried a slightly citrus-like aroma. After a bit of searching, I discovered they were indigenous chiles called chilipequins. The pequín pepper originates from the Rio Grand Valley or Northern Mexico area. (Once including Tejas) It gets it's name from the Spanish name; chile pequeño, meaning 'small' or 'little' chile. (since they rarely get larger than 2cm) Despite it's small stature, this local chile has a big bite. It tops the chart at a whopping 75,000 scoville units! Compare this to your traditional Jalapeño which only has about 4,000 scoville units.**
Because of their small size, the chiles must be harvested by hand, and therefore are not readily available in most grocery stores. But if you are in Central or South Texas, be on the lookout for this wild-growing delicacy. But remember, if you're new to these little fire-breathers, you may want to use them with caution.
**The Scoville scale measures the hotness of a chile pepper, as defined by the amount of capsaicin(a chemical compound that stimulates the nerve endings in the tongue or skin) present.
RECIPE: Spicy Chile Pequin Shrimp (serves 4)
- 16-20 Jumbo Gulf White Shrimp (peeled and deveined) 1-2lbs. or 4-5 shrimp per serving
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon diced chile pequin peppers (5-6 ct.)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 med. white onion chopped
- 1/4 cup celery chopped
- 4-5 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1-2 teaspoon flour
- 4-6 tbsp. of unsalted butter
- 1/3-1/2 cup of heavy cream
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (green onions)
- 2 tablespoons sliced jalapeno (optional)
- 2 cups cooked white rice **
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat add remaining oil and combine with onion, celery, garlic, and fresh pequin chiles. Cook until fragrant, or about 3-4 minutes. When onions are slightly translucent, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted, increase to medium-high heat and add shrimp. Pan-sear shrimp quickly. 30-45 seconds or until slightly browned. Add remaining butter and sprinkle in the flour. Add cream and jalapenos and stir until combined and a sauce forms. Serve atop white rice and garnish with scallions.
** You can also serve with your choice of pasta or other starch. Toasted baguette works well if serving as appetizer.
(I forgot to take a picture of the Shrimp Pequin when I made it, so I found something close to what it should look like.)