Datil peppers arrived in Florida around 1777 when the Minorcans arrived in St. Augustine. While the pepper is related to other members of the capsicum family, it is very unique in flavor. It is as hot as a Habanero but also has a fruity quality. I’ve never tasted another pepper like it. They are very hard to obtain, but you can buy seeds for them. They are now almost exclusively grown in Florida in the St. Augustine area.
Here are two recipes I put together with these peppers: A Minorcan-style clam chowder and a white chicken chili.
Ingredients – Clam chowder
4 slices bacon
1 large onion
1 bell pepper
2 stalks celery
1 8 oz bottle clam juice
28 oz crushed tomatoes
2 Datil peppers about 1 1/2″ or 1 large one
16 oz chopped clams with juice
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh
1 large potato
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
18 littleneck clams for garnish
2 TB finely chopped parsley for garnish
In a large Dutch oven, place the 4 slices of bacon over medium to medium low heat. Fry until crispy. Remove to a paper towel on a plate. Dice the onion, pepper and celery into 1/4″ dice. Keep the pot hot at medium heat and add them to the bacon fat in the pot. Saute (lower heat if needed) without coloring them for 3-5 minutes until they have softened. Finely chop Datil peppers. Add clam juice, tomatoes, Datils, chopped clams, bay leaf and thyme. Fill the tomato can half full of water and add to the pot. Stir, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour. Peel and dice potato into 1/4″ dice. Add to the pot with salt and pepper. Cook for another hour over a simmer until potatoes are done. Before serving add 3 clams per person to the pot and slightly raise the heat to a low boil/steady simmer. Cook for 3 minutes or so, just until clams open. (If they don’t open, throw them out.) Serve in a bowl with crackers on the side, adding 3 clams to each bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and crumbled bacon.
Ingredients – White chicken chili
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 TB Canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion
3 TB flour
7.75 oz can green salsa
(3) 15.5 oz cans white beans
1 tsp garlic
1 bay leaf
4 slices pickled jalapeno
(2) 1 1/2″ Datils or 1 large
36 oz of chicken stock
sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped onion and/or minced parsley or cilantro for garnishes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a sheet pan and place chicken breasts on it. Season with sea salt. Bake for 25 minutes or until just cooked through. In a Dutch oven or large pot, add oil. Heat to medium heat. Dice onion into 1/4″ dice and add to pot. Saute until translucent. Add flour. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute. Add salsa. Rinse beans in a colander and add. Add garlic and bay leaf. Finely chop jalapeno and Datils. Add to pot and cover with the chicken stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Dice cooked chicken and add, re-heating the chicken in the pot for 2-3 minutes. Serve with the suggested garnishes to your preference.