Friday, January 15, 2010

Enchilada Sauce

Once upon a time I lived in a far away land where there was so much Mexican food that I took it for granted. If I wanted to eat Mexican I had my pick of restaurants, specialty shops, a Latin food isle at the supermarket and really generous Mexican neighbors, all that provided amazing food that I didn't properly appreciate. The end.

Living in an area where Mexican food isn't a staple means that I have to make pretty basic sauces from scratch. The type of thing I used to just order or buy. I haven't found a Mexican cookbook that I love, but do use the "Maui Tacos Cookbook" (Why, yes. I did buy it from the food court in the airport.) for Enchilada sauce. It takes an hour or so to make because of the simmering, but the prep time is about ten minutes.


2 whole dried ancho chilies, stem and seeds removed
1 quarter water or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cumin (I consider this optional and don't add it)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup chile powder
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 onion, cut into large pieces
1 cup white flour
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water

This recipe makes a lot of sauce. I typically half it. The recipe will keep for a while in the refrigerator and I find is fine to freeze.

In a skillet, dry roast the whole ancho chilies on medium heat (without oil) until they begin to puff up. Remove from heat. This should only take a few minutes. (Here's the part where I admit we ran out of ancho chilies and our supplier has run out, too. So I used Pasilla chilies, which are also fairly mild, but much bigger. They worked okay, but the pasilla chiles made the sauce hotter than the ancho. So hot it made Niall hiccup. He was happy.)

When the chilies are roasted, cut off the stems and remove the seeds. I save the seeds for other dishes. I should have used gloves (will I never learn?) because I got chili oil on my hands and accidentally kept touching my face and it burned.

In a blender, add 1/2 of the vegetable stock (my blender isn't big enough for all of it), garlic, pepper, salt, cumin (if you're using it), salt, chile powder, tomato paste, onion and the ancho chilies. Blend until smooth.

In a separate bowl, use a wire whisk to make a roux by combining the oil, water and flour.

In a large pot add the sauce from the blender, the rest of the vegetable stock and the bay leaves. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Slowly stir in the roux. (I start out by adding 1/2 the roux and adding more as needed.)

Simmer until the sauce begins to reduce and thickens, usually about 40 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. If it gets too thick add more vegetable stock or water.

We typically use the sauce for enchiladas, but do add it to beans and/or rice and other dishes.

For burritos, we fill a corn tortilla with beans (black or pinto, refried or not), a bit of cheese and about a bit of the enchilada sauce.

Roll the tortilla and repeat.

Cover the filled tortillas with the sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cook it in the oven (I've used a broiler before but the bottom doesn't heat up enough) on 350 degrees until the cheese is hot and bubbly.

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