Have you ever made your own enchilada sauce? Until last Fall, I hadn’t. I thought all good enchilada sauce came from a can. I was so wrong. Making it from scratch was fairly easy and the flavor was so much better. I want to share with you how to make it.
The first thing to be done is to gather together a good collection of chili peppers. Dried chili peppers are now rather plentiful in most markets. (I even saw them at WalMart.) The chilis take their flavor from the type of pepper they are and the area where they are grown. There is a Mexican market in our little town of Windsor whose chilis come from the north of Mexico as well as the Sacramento Valley of California. (The clerks were happy to talk about their peppers.) They vary in temperature from mild to a furnace poker hot. Which peppers you use is up to you. Get all hot or all mild or a mixture. It depends on how spicy you like your enchiladas.
Making the sauce requires very few ingredients. Here’s what you need:
- 10 to 12 dried chili peppers (half hot, half mild)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tablespoon oil (vegetable, canola)
- 1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (plain is fine)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/3 cup chili powder (approximately)
Before we begin I want to mention some safety precautions. You will be working with very hot chili peppers that can actually burn your skin, eyes, or other places on your body where they might come in contact. After my first experience with chili peppers, I’ve used plastic gloves religiously. Okay, let’s move on with making the sauce. Here are the directions:
1. Rinse off the chile peppers under running water. Place them in a large saucepan and cover generously with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and cover. Let stand covered for 30 to 45 min or until the peppers are soft.
2. Carefully take the chili peppers out of the pot. (I use a slotted spoon Be gentle with the chilis so you don’t take off the now delicate skin.. (Don’t throw out the water. You’ll need it in a minute.) Pull the stems off the chiles and gently rinse off any seeds that may have come loose. Discard stems and seeds.
3. Place the chili peppers in a blender. Then add one cup of the water left over from boiling the peppers.
4. Blend all the peppers until they are pureed – less than 30 seconds.
5. Pour the blender mixture into a sieve over a bowl, and rub through the sieve to eliminate any pulp or seeds.
6. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the diced onion and saute until they start to look translucent.Then add the spices and swirl around in the oil a few minutes until fragrant. You now have a lovely rue.
7. Slowly add the pureed chili and water mixture. Stir it until it’s completely blended. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes. It will become a little thick. If it becomes too thick, add a little more of the saved water or you could add some stock (chicken or veggie).
Use the sauce with your favorite enchilada recipe. My son learned to make sauce this way when he lived in New Mexico. In that part of the country enchilada are traditionally made flat. The tortillas are laid flat with the filling in between. It’s like a Mexican lasagna.
This recipe is very flexible and very forgiving. You can alter the “heat” of the chilis as well as the spices. You may want to experiment with the cumin or oregano or try others like coriander, etc. Once you try your own enchilada sauce from scratch, I doubt you’ll ever use the canned stuff again.
This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature at Beth Fish Reads. Click the button below and it will take you there.