Fidel Figures it Out: Chipotle is popular stuff but what is it?

Published: Sunday, April 22 2012 7:48 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — There's a taco place I like that has chipotle salsa I crave like a tax return. I could tell you it had a robust flavor, and that I'm seeing all kinds of foods with "chipotle" in the name, but I had no idea what chipotle is.

So with the help of my fantastic KSL producer, Candice Madsen, and Harmons Cooking School Chef Adalberto Diaz Labrada, I have now figured that out.

Now, if you're thinking to yourself, "Duh — Wikipedia! He went to too much trouble," I'll counter with, "Hello — Steve got a one-on-one lesson with the chef, who taught me how to make chocolate truffles."

Chocolate chipotle truffles, to be exact. They taste just like straight-up chocolate truffles until you swallow. The chef explained that the fat in the ingredients masks the chipotle seasoning from kicking in while the treat is in your mouth. But once the delightful little chocolaty treat hits your throat — watch out!

OK, enough of the tease. It's time for the reveal. Chef Adalberto said that, in the most generic sense of the word, "chipotle" is a Mexican/Indian word for smoked pepper. Now that it's mainstream, it's made by taking red-ripe jalapeño peppers and smoking them until they're shriveled up and dry. After that the peppers are ground into powder or mixed in a tomato sauce for use in all kinds of cooking — from savory sauces and rubs to the throat-clearing truffles I made with Chef Adalberto.

The Center for Culinary Development, which tracks food trends, says it took about 13 years for chipotle to find its way from fine restaurants and gourmet food magazines and onto grocery store shelves. Chef Adalberto said he started seeing chipotle in the U.S. about four years ago.

Now it's everywhere — on its way to being a time-stamped food trend along with the likes of ranch dressing and teriyaki sauce.

The Center for Culinary Development tracks food trends. According to researchers there, it took about 13 years for chipotle to find its way from fine restaurants and gourmet food magazines and onto grocery store shelves.

But food trends are now hitting the mainstream even faster, thanks to social media. Want to try something smoky that doesn't have the kick of jalapeño? Try smoked paprika. Seriously.

What are some is the next food trend going to be? I'm hearing the pickle is making a comeback — but you've got to use special cucumbers and artisan salt. Just as Thai was the new Chinese, Korean is now the new Thai. Anything gluten-free is trendy, as are DIY (do it yourself) foods. Just check pinterest.com.