Saturday, June 07, 2014

What's Cooking at our House: Homemade Enchilada Sauce

This homemade enchilada sauce is worth the effort.

Some dishes are difficult to make, others are time-consuming, and some are both difficult and time-consuming. Those are naturally the ones we tend to buy "store-bought" because we're pressed for time and wary of complicated recipes.

Homemade enchilada sauce is so infinitely superior to the "store-bought" kind that it's one of those things that's worth the time and effort every once in a while. We use the recipe from Jacqueline Higuera McMahan's California Rancho Cooking: Mexican and Californian RecipesAuthentic Rancho Chile Sauce.

The ingredients are few: dried guajillo or California peppers, (the recipe calls for mild California peppers, we prefer the spicier guajillo), minced garlic, dried oregano, cider vinegar and oil/flour for the roux.

What the recipe doesn't address is how to deal with the tough skins of the guajillo peppers. One way is to soak and puree the dried peppers and then put the puree through a food mill/sieve to remove all the bits of tough skin, but this is a messy and laborious process.

My wife came up with a much easier and less messy way of separate the pulpy flesh of the soaked peppers from the tough skin:

1. carefully remove the chile stem, and cut down the length of chile to so you can open in flat (kitchen scissors makes this easy/safe) to remove all the seeds and stringy membrane. You can also cut the open chile in half – makes it easier later to scrape off the softened flesh.

2. now rise the de-seeded chiles

3. place chiles in clean bowl with 2-3 crushed garlic cloves, and cover with boiling water only to cover. Don’t use her suggested 2 quarts of water because you will be saving the soaking liquid to puree the chiles – you want the flavor concentrated. Just use enough water to amply cover the chiles – set a place inside the bowl on top the chiles to keep them submerged. Now you can head off to the farm supply store to buy your screen. The chiles are fine soaking/rehydrating for an hour or two.

4. Strain the chiles in a colander being sure to save all the flavorful soaking liquid + the crushed garlic.

5. Place each chile flat on a cutting board and gently scrape all the flesh off the skin into a blender – it’s very easy to do with a small paring knife blade tip.

6. Blenderize the chiles with the crushed garlic + 1 1/2 cups soaking liquid to start – use your judgment; may need more liquid but don’t make the puree too thin.

7. Now heat a cast iron flying pan if you have one, and you’ll be proceeding to prepare the enchilada sauce using a basic “gravy” making technique. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in the pan on medium, sprinkle in the flour while whisking so it won’t burn – want this roux to brown nicely (you don’t need to add the minced garlic since the cloves are already in the chile puree).

Whisk in the red chile puree until smooth, then add in the 2 teaspoons oregano and 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer 20 minutes for flavors to meld – your sauce is ready. If it looks too thick, whisk in more of the chile soaking liquid.

Now we're ready to assemble the enchiladas. Note this recipe calls for sauteed sweet onion filling but you can whatever you want Рcheese, olives, shredded chicken, beef, pork. Be sure to saut̩ at least a whole onion or two for the filling, regardless of other additions.

Here's the sauce:

Assembling the enchiladas:

The homemade enchiladas, ready to serve:

Me at work in my buddy's kitchen (we've been pals since the 6th grade):

Like every other time-consuming task in the kitchen, the work goes quick when many hands are helping and convivial conversation makes the time fly by. You'll probably find the leftover enchiladas made with this sauce don't last long.

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts."

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