Red Enchilada Sauce

I’d been wanting to make my own enchilada sauce for a while now and I had a couple of failed attempts before hitting it out of the park with this one. The best part was trusting my own instincts – I searched in vain, for quite some time, for a recipe I felt was “right” before realizing that the right one would, of course, be the one I made all by myself.

And so it was. It knocked our flippin’ socks off.

Red Enchilada Sauce
(makes 5 to 6 cups, enough for two standard enchilada recipes)

Ingredients

6 dried New Mexican chiles
4 dried ancho chiles
4 dried chiles de arbol
2 cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt

Method

Cut the heads off the chiles and shake out all the seeds. Cut the chiles up with a pair of scissors (or rip them by hand) into large pieces.

Heat a large skillet on medium low. Place the dried chile pieces on the skillet to heat, pressing down to blister. Turn the chiles over and heat a few seconds more.

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Place the chiles into a non-reactive bowl and pour enough boiling water into the bowl to cover the chiles. Place a lid over the bowl and allow to sit for at least an hour, to soften the chiles.

Pull the chiles out of the soaking water and place in a blender with the chicken stock, tomato sauce, garlic, cumin, oregano and salt. Blend until liquefied, about a minute.

At this point, you can strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or pan, but I don’t bother. I’ve done it before, but since my blender works well enough to only leave a little chile piece or two, I like to leave it as is. I think the sauce has more character that way.

There is no real sweetness or tartness here, except what you get from the blend of pure chiles and tomatoes. This is a smoky, savory, slightly spicy enchilada sauce. Just as I wanted it.

Candied Jalapenos

Candied Jalapenos
slightly modified from and with major thanks to Rebecca

Ingredients
(recipe can easily be scaled in either direction – I do one-third this amount and end up with one full 1-pint jar)

3 pounds fresh, firm, jalapeno peppers
2 cups apple cider vinegar
5 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Method

Wearing gloves (wear gloves!!), stem but do not seed the jalapeno peppers. Discard the stems and slice the peppers into 1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring cider vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peppers into clean, sterile 1-pint canning jars, to within 1/4 inch of the upper rims. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.

Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices.

Insert a cooking chopstick to the bottom of the jars two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.

Place jars in a canner (or a large stock pot with a towel on the bottom to cushion the jars) and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 15 minutes. When timer goes off, use canning tongs (or a thick oven mitt) to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave the jars to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth.

Allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating.

NOTES

After an earlier go round with these last summer, I cut back on the sugar, but otherwise kept the recipe intact. The jalapenos turn out tender and syrupy sweet, with just a hint of heat.

I loved testing this batch out on a burger with bacon jam smeared across the bottom bun. Transcendent.

Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons New Mexican chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Method

In a large saucepan on medium low heat, saute the onions and garlic in the oil for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but *not* browned. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then strain through a fine mesh sieve, pushing down on the solids to get all the juices through. This can take a while.

Use immediately, refrigerate in an airtight jar for a month or so, or freeze in cup portions for a few months.

NOTES

I have barbecue sauce issues. I think 90 percent of sauces I’ve ever tasted are too sweet and so avoid eating much American barbecue.  This sauce, however, is an adapted-over-time early recipe of mine and definitely focuses more on the tangy and spicy elements.  And we love it.

Habanero Hot Sauce

Habanero Hot Sauce
courtesy of Rick Bayless

Ingredients

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 medium carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1/2 small white onion, roughly chopped
12 medium orange habanero chiles, stemmed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Method

Roast the garlic in a skillet over medium heat, turning regularly until soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and peel.

In a small saucepan, combine the carrot, onion and habanero chiles with the vinegar and 1 cup water. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the carrots are thoroughly tender, about 10 minutes. Pour into a blender jar, add the roasted garlic, salt and sugar. Blend until smooth.

If the hot sauce is too thick, add additional water. If it is too thin, blanch and peel a medium tomato and blend into the sauce.

Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary. Pour into jars or bottles and store in the refrigerator.

makes about 2 cups

NOTES

This isn’t just “burn your face off” sauce. It has depth. The roasted garlic, in particular, really shines through. The first time I put the sauce on something was that taco above and I was so pleasantly surprised with how rich the flavor was and how little my mouth burned when I was done. I’ve always been a chile head, but only when I learned to value complexity, as opposed to just heat heat heat, did I truly start to appreciate how awesome chile love could be.

The first time I made this recipe I tripled it based on the fact that I bought a basket of about three dozen habaneros at the farmer’s market. But then triple the liquid meant the end result was too thin. That’s why I put that note in the recipe above about adding some tomato, if necessary. Honestly? I encourage you to do it anyway. It thickens it only slightly, but the extra sweetness and tang it adds really, really works. If you make a batch x8, as I did recently, add two or three tomatoes. Mix of red and yellow ones, if you can get ’em.

Barbecued Mahi-Mahi with Yellow Pepper-Cilantro Pesto

Barbecued Mahi-Mahi with Yellow Pepper-Cilantro Pesto
from Bobby Flay

“Barbecue” Rub
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon chile de arbol powder (I use New Mexican chile powder)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Yellow Pepper-Cilantro Pesto
2 large yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mahi-mahi
4 Mahi-mahi fillets, 8 ounces each
4 teaspoons olive oil
“Barbecue” Rub
Cilantro leaves

Directions

Combine all the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Place peppers, garlic, pine nuts, cilantro and cheese in a food processor and process until combined. With the motor running, add the oil and process until emulsified and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat grill (or indoor grill pan) to high. Brush each fillet on both sides with oil. Rub 1 side of each fillet with 1 tablespoon of the barbecue rub and place on the grill rub side down and cook until slightly charred and a crust has formed, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the fish over and grill for 3 to 4 minutes longer or until cooked to medium doneness. Top each fillet with a few tablespoons of the pesto and garnish with cilantro leaves.

NOTES

This may seem out of place in winter, but since I have no grill, and instead use an indoor pan or my oven or my broiler, any time of the year is a good time for me to make this.  Heck, you could even just sear this in a regular skillet.  I’ve done that as well.  No biggie.

The highlight of this dish, um, in case it wasn’t apparent, is the yellow pepper pesto.  Phenomenal. So much so that I highly suggest scaling the recipe as follows: 1/2 the rub, 1/2 the fish, keep the pesto amount the same. Trust me, you’ll be eating it off a spoon. It goes great on top of a side of white rice or just heaped on top of each bite of the fish.

I said some time back, when I first posted this, that I had to find other uses for the sauce.  Now, it seems obvious that it would be pretty spectacular on chicken as well, even using the same dry rub for the poultry.  Hm.  Must try that.