Seasonal Chile Powder at Herbsaint
Before moving to New Orleans and finding a job at Herbsaint, Rising Star Chef Rebecca Wilcomb got an early introduction to working with spices at Ana Sortun's Oleana in Boston. So when confronted with a less-than-satisfactory selection of chile powders, she decided to blend her own and go straight to the source of flavor: local farmers who have an abundance of chiles in the summer.
Wilcomb's chile of choice is the criolla sella, a fruity, medium-hot, bright orange chile from Bolivia. Wilcomb dries about 40 pounds of criolla sella throughout the summer to last until the next growing season. She dehrydrates the chiles in a low oven over the course of 3 to 4 nights before grinding them in a Vita-Prep (each batch stays fresh for a month). To make her spice blend—that adorns her Gulf seafood ceviche, among other dishes—she a mixes a base of 60 percent criolla sella with cayenne, paprika, ají limón, California chile pepper, and cumin. It's a personal, ever-evolving expression of Louisiana cooking told through a devoted student of spice.