Sunday, November 22, 2009

Red Enchiladas, Part 1

This part really isn't very difficult at all.  It just takes some 'splainin'. Once you've done it once or twice it's really NBD and only takes about 15 minutes.    You just need to do this earlier in the day or at some earlier time because it's much easier to assemble your enchiladas when the sauce is cool.  Also,  red chile sauce freezes very well.

First, get a package of whole dried red chiles.  (I didn't leave out an "i", the word is chile, not chili, chily, chilies or any other gringo spelling).  And they don't have to be from Hatch, but definitely from New Mexico.
A word about chile.  My father,  Buck Sommerville, a renowned chile farmer and an innovator of the dehydrator and packaged red chile, always wanted to eat "fresh" red chile.  The taste is actually better.  So look for a package that has chile that is slightly soft and bendable, not crackly and breaking. Also, the color is slightly more red than brown with freshly packaged red chile.  But if you're desperate, any whole dried pods will do.  And a warning about ground up dried red chile "powder".  Don't do it.  You don't know what it is, how old it it, what bugs are in it,  how it was stored, etc.   It is the last resort of a chile lover.

I always get "MILD".  That's because farmers today have a hard time getting pure seed.  And if the seed isn't produced in a field that is  isolated from another field that is growing "HOT" you might burn up everything from your lips to your *.  So get mild.  You might get a hot batch anyway.
Put on some gloves.   Working with chile with bare hands can get your hands burning for much longer than you ever thought possible.  And if you slip up and touch your eye.... just put on some gloves.
Wash the chile and start breaking the stems off.  You don't really have to wash out the seeds but it might help make the finished product milder.  We like a little "pica" (bite) with our chile so I don't bother washing out the seeds...they will get strained out later.  Keep the water running over your work, the dust can bring on a coughing fit.

Then cover your chiles with water and on the stove top they go.
Some recipes call for just covering with boiling water, but I like to boil them, but only for about 5 minutes, covered.  Then let  them sit for a few more.
Get your blender and a dish towel.
 You'll see why in a minute.

Fish your chiles out of the pot and put them in the blender.  And here is where I put in some fresh Oregano.  Or you could use a pinch of dried.  Just thrown it into the blender with the chile. Use a strainer to pour some of the boil water in, just enough to cover well.

Then, put the lid on tight, and cover the lid with a tea towel, as my mother used to call them.  This is to catch any escaping liquid that might blow out of the blender.  Here's the deal; red chile will stain anything known to mankind.  And you really don't want to be trying to get a chile stain off the ceiling.  Or anything else.

                                                         Blend up your chile and the water and oregano.
Once your chile is all blended up (and if it looks too thick, add more chile water)  pour it into a fine screened strainer over another bowl.  Take a big spoon and work it down over the strainer until you can't get any more to go through.  Some recipes don't tell you to do this,  they go straight to sauce after blending, but if you don't get the skin and seeds out, you will probably need some Pepcid later.  Just tellin' ya.

So now you've got a bowl of pure chile.  Isn't it beautiful?  Do you have a sweater or something you want to dye?

Alternatively, you can use a food mill, such as this trusty old stand-by.  It belonged to my Grandmother!


Take a pan and put a chunk of butter in there, say the size of a small egg.  Or you could use lard.  Yes, lard.  Then put in an equal amount of flour.  Then a pinch of comino or ground cumin.
I say a pinch because cumin is very powerful and I just like a tiny bit of it in my sauce.  You may want more, especially if you grew up in Arizona or eating Tex-Mex, which isn't the same as our Southern New Mexican food.  In my opinion, all that garlic and cumin just muddies up the taste, and possibly was needed where you didn't get good chile.  You want to taste the chile.

Let the cumin toast while the butter melts.  Then mix it all together and let the flour cook a bit.

Then pour your pure chile in there, be careful not to have your pan too hot.  We don't want spatters.
Now, this part is controversial.  Or  just personal preference.  But I think adding another liquid at this point is preferable, mainly because you need to stretch out your sauce a little.  I personally like to use chicken broth.  About the amount of a small can is enough.  My dear Auntie likes to put in tomato soup.  Lots of people want just water.   But I think chicken broth is best and it mellows the bitter bite of the chile just enough.

Also, now is the time for a half-dollar size amount of salt.   You will need to check the taste, though.  If you love chile, you might swoon.

Okay, so when the sauce has thickened to the point it coats a spoon, you're done.   That was easy, wasn't it?
Next installment:  Assembling the Enchiladas.


Clementina said...

What great directions for chile sauce! I make mine a little dirfferently from yours, but I am totally with you on using chicken broth--all that chicken-y goodness makes for a great CHILE sauce, too! (And, yes, I agree with the spelling, too!)

Jan said...

Thanks, amiga. I look forward to seeing your take on it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the wonderful recipes and most of all the nostalgia. Our family (4 daughters) moved to El Paso, down the Valley, in 1953 and everything on your site brings back such memories!! Our family also went to Griggs on Doniphan after church on Sundays. What a treat! My favorite at Griggs was the empanadas, especially the apricot, and I can just taste their coleslaw! And I had forgotten all about irrigation time and grumpy ditchmasters! Your entire blog is a delight!

Jan said...

Thank you so much! I am so gratified that I was able to bring back good memories! I appreciate the comment.