Monday, September 1, 2008
I spent last winter about 10 miles north of the Mexican border in Arizona and while I was there I got to try out a lot of real-deal Mexican cuisine. I also happened to bring back an immense amount of dried chile peppers which have been sitting in my pantry unused for a couple of months. So today I decided to whip up a batch of red chile, notice I say chile not chili. Coming from New York the chili that I am used to is invariably a tomato based/ground beef/pinto bean concoction usually served under the moniker of Chile con Carne. Occasionally someone will omit the beans and tell you that this is the real, authentic Mexican thing. While I was down in the South West I found out that real Chile is quite a different animal. Nary a tomato to be found in the traditional dish, most red type chiles you find are called Chile Colorado and are entirely chile pepper based.
To make my version I started with an assortment of dried chiles. I used anchos, pasillos, puyas, arbols, and New Mexico reds.
These go into a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Alternately, you can roast them on the stove top in a cast iron skillet which I believe is a bit more traditional. Once they are roasted rip off the stems and dump out as many of the seeds as you can. Invariably you will not be able to get them all out and the leftover seeds will add to the overall fiery nature of this dish. You should then simmer the peppers in a covered skillet in enough salted water to cover for about 20 minutes. As a side note, remember to wash your hands after you do this I went to take a leak after this process without washing my hands. Hilarity ensued.
When the peppers are good and tender I transfer them to a bowl with the water and hit them with my handy dandy stick blender until completely smooth. The next step is to make a light roux using a couple globs of butter and an equal amount of flour.
Throw the chile back into the roux and bring up to a simmer and leave it to bubble for a couple minutes. This should tighten the chile up a little leaving you with a nice, thick sauce. Throw in a teaspoon or so of garlic powder and season to taste and you have a traditional Mexican red chile. I deviate from the recipe a little and throw in a splash of white vinegar and a small handful of sugar.
If you remember my amateur butchery of this post,-
then you will remember that I was left with a hearty portion of high quality meat scraps. I decided to use these in my chile. The meat looked delicious, much better than the crappy stew meat that you see in grocery stores.
I browned this stuff off in a casserole, draining once. When it was half done I had to stop myself grabbing little hunks of meat and devouring them. The little pieces were like tiny medium rare filet mignons.
When the meat was well browned I dumped in the chile sauce and brought back to a boil. Into a 325 degree oven went the covered casserole for couple of hours, leaving me with a delicious mess of meaty, burning chile.
My favorite way to eat chile of this ilk is with runny, fried eggs and corn tortillas.
To make a plate I dunk two corn tortillas into the chile and let them sit for a minute to get nice and sodden with the sauce. On top of this goes the fried egg, followed by a couple spoons of the meat and sauce. Top it all off with a couple grinds of fresh pepper and you are left with a simple and delicious snack.
This chile is completely different from tomato type chilies that you see a lot of. This stuff has a smokey, pleasantly bitter flavor and a slow burn that starts in the back of your throat and then moves to your belly. You can use the base sauce for a myriad of other dishes and it keeps well in the fridge for quite the while. I recommend that you give it a whirl if so inclined.