Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Smokey Chile Sauce

Let the record state to all who are leery about a homemade chile sauce that the barely tedious effort is worth the end product a million times over. The flavor of this sauce is luxiourously smokey, just a baby-bit spicy. A glorious multi-function, all-purpose Mexican inspired cooking sauce. Consider this a lazy afternoon in the kitchen recipe which will provide you with 3 or 4 fast and flavorful meals in the future. So many uses for this sauce! It would be a great base for enchiladas, chili and soup, you could marinate chicken and steak for fajitas, the options are endless! I'll be sure to post soon about the Pozole Rojo I made with this sauce. It was out of this world delicious! I'm so glad I finally sprung for the dirt cheap bags of dried chiles that were hanging on the wall at the local Mexican grocery. It's one of those pantry items you know you might use in the future, not sure how you'll come around to finally use it, but know you'd love to experiment with an ingredient so unusual to your regular cooking repertoire. I wish I could tell you a little bit more about the history and typical uses of the types of chiles I used, maybe go on and on about traditional methods and sound super smart, but I can't. I did a quick web search on the spelling of chile vs. chili. Texas has some strong feelings on it and so does California. After quickly realizing that researching chile vs. chili was a lost cause I went straight to Rick Bayless because in my mind he is the final word in modern Mexican cooking. Rick didn't fail me. A straight forward and simple recipe that uses ingredients you're going to have in your pantry at any moment's notice. Bring on the CHILE! 

Bags of chiles. Or is it bags of chilis? We'll never know. Rick's original recipe used only ancho chiles, but I had impulsively bought two types of chiles, so I double dog dared myself to throw in the guajillo chiles and double the recipe. So daring! In the end it was a happy result. 
Some recipes suggested taking the seeds out after blistering the skins. That would be seriously impossible! Do it before you blister them in the hot oil. You'll thank me later. 
If you like a hotter sauce you could leave some of the seeds inside the sauce. I took all the seeds out and the flavor wasn't spicy at all. Think like very mild Tabasco sauce. There were no lips burning here. I think maybe next time I would add some seeds. Just a little lip burn. 
The scraps. Trash that.
The skins. Cook that. 
Turning soft. I forgot to use a plate to submerge the chilis, which I slipped in after I shot this photo. Don't forget the plate. 
Get the garlic and spices ready to rumble. 
Throw 'um in the rumbler machine. A.K.A the blender. 
Done softening the skins with hot water. They should be kinda slimy and soft.
Christian looks a little hesitant because I had somewhat jokingly warned him if the top flies off it might be a little spicy.
The top never flew off. Whew.
Not sure how important the straining step is, because knowing it was adding another dish to the list of this dish-heavy preparation I totally wanted to skip the straining. But look at all that extra chunk that would otherwise be stopping your sauce from being luxioously creamy. So just do it. 
Now simmer until thickened. And be prepared for a serious splatter mess. You've been warned. 
Here is the plate test you'll do to determine if the sauce is at the right consistency. See how the sauce doesn't separate and elegantly runs down the plate? Yes, done with the stovetop splatter mess. 
Now season her up with salt and sugar so that you've got a perfect balance of spicy, smokey, salty, sweet and sour and you'll be ready to cook stews, marinate steaks and chicken, use it as a salsa, baste enchiladas, top burritos. What will you do with your Smokey Chile Sauce? 

Printable Recipe Here

Smokey Chile Sauce
adapted from Rick Bayless' Red Chile Adobo Sauce

Yield: About 5 cups

3 ounce bag dried Guajillo chile peppers
3 ounce bag dried Ancho chile peppers
3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable
8 cups hot tap water
12 garlic cloves, peeled
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
4-5 tablespoons cane sugar

Using a paring knife, slice off the tops of the dried chile peppers and empty the seeds into a bowl. It's OK if the skins are torn into pieces - it's all going into the blender eventually.

Heat oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add chiles when oil is hot and blister the skins for 15-30 seconds - this part goes fast, so be ready. Move hot chiles to a large bowl, pour hot tap water over, place a small dinner plate on top of chiles to help them fully submerge and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow skins to soften.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of a blender or food processor place peeled garlic cloves, spices and vinegar. Once chiles are softened, work in batches to puree in blender, tap water and all.

Wipe out the skillet the chiles were blistered in, leaving a thin slick of oil in the skillet heat over medium-high heat. Pour the pureed chiles into the hot skillet and simmer until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 30 minutes, reducing heat to medium if sauce begins to sputter and make a gigantic mess of your countertop - which it most definitely will. Stir occasionally.

Once the sauce reaches a thick consistency, add broth and simmer for an additional 20-25 minutes over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. The end consistency should be light in texture, not watery, just one stage thicker. A good test is to pour a little on a plate and watch it spread. If it flows evenly it's right. If it doesn't flow much and water separates around the edges it's too thick. Season with salt and sugar. Can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to 6 months.

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I'd love to hear all about your kitchen adventures! Xo, Becki