My trip to New Mexico last week reminded me of just how much I missed the food. Especially the Chile! New Mexican’s love their chile sauce, and every restaurant will offer a choice between Green or Red. What do you put it on? Everything! Anything! Enchiladas, Tostadas, Rellenos, Burritos, you name it and it can be smothered in chile! Oh yum.
There are 2 basic sauces in New Mexico, Red or Green, both made from the fresh Hatch Chile grown in the southern part of the state. Green Chile sauce is made primarily from fresh, green chile’s. And I’m not talking about the Anaheim Chiles you can buy in the grocery store. The New Mexico chile pepper is different from those grown in California or anywhere else. Maybe it’s the high elevation, or the volcanic soil, or maybe it’s the combination of hot, searing days and cool, crisp nights. Whatever the reason, New Mexico Chiles have a flavor that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Red Chile sauce is made from the same green chiles, only they have been allowed to ripen on the vine. They are a deep, brilliant red chile that are tied up in ristras and hung to dry. The flavor is different from that of the green, unripened, chile which is why some people have a preference to red, and some to green. It basically comes down to fresh vs dried. Personally, I love them both.
Making Your Own New Mexico Red Chile Sauce
If you’re as addicted to New Mexican Chile Sauce as I am, and you live anywhere else except New Mexico, what can you do?
Fortunately you can make Red Sauce anytime you want! You just need to start by buying the right ingredients! And they’re probably available right in your very own grocery store.
I found everything I needed at my local Oregon Wal-Mart.
Here’s how I make mine, it’s a bit of work but when it’s done it’s out of this world, especially for us misplaced New Mexicans dying for a chile fix.
- 1 bag of El Guapo New Mexican dried Red Chiles
- 3 cups of water
- ½ small onion
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp cumin – divided
- ½ tsp oregeno
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbls flour
- 4 tbls low sodium veggie broth
- You’re going to need to find a bag of dried New Mexican Red Chiles. Look for them in the Hispanic Foods section of your grocery store. They’re usually hanging on a rack along with bags of spices. El Guapo and El Sol are two popular brands. Make sure the bag says New Mexico Chiles.
- Preheat your oven to about 250 degrees. We’re going to give them a little roast that will really bring out the flavor.
- Pick out about 20 of the nicest chiles in the bag. One at a time, give them a quick rinse under the tap to wash off any dust. Shake off any excess water and place all 20 of them on a cookie sheet.
- Roast these Chiles for about 15-20 minutes. Give them a quick flip about halfway through. Your kitchen will soon start to smell heavenly! It’s important to keep an eye on them, as you do NOT want to let them burn. They should just deepen a bit in color.
- Once they’re done roasting, let them cool a minute and grab 1) a big stockpot, and 2) a good-sized bowl.
- Warning: Chile Peppers contain an oil that WILL burn like no other….especially if you accidentally rub an eye. Trust me on this one – it hurts. So you might want to wear some gloves before you start handling the chiles. Be careful! And if you DO still somehow get chile oil in your eye, well let’s just say you CAN lay down on the kitchen counter with your head under the kitchen faucet. In a pinch it does make an adequate eye wash. Yes I speak from experience. Flush for at least 10 minutes. Ok – end of PSA – on to the recipe.
- One by one with a pair of kitchen shears, snip off the end of the chile with the stem. Dump out as many seeds as you can into your trash bowl. You can cut the chile lengthwise as well and scrape out any remaining seeds if you want. Remember the oil (and the heat) is in the seeds and the membrane (placenta). The more you remove the milder the sauce. Once cleaned cut the chile into pieces and drop into your stockpot.
- Continue until all the chiles are cleaned and in your pot.
- Smash up 4-5 garlic cloves and add them to your pot.
- Roughly chop about haf a small onion and add that to your pot. (I used a Spanish Red Onion)
- Add about ½ tsp of ground Cumin.
- Add about ½ tsp of Oregano.
- Add about 1 tsp of Salt.
- Add about 3 cups of cold water to your pot and stir.
- Turn the heat on high and with a wooden spoon make sure all the chiles are submerged in the water. Once it comes to a boil, cover the pot and turn down the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Once the 10 minute simmer is done, turn off the heat and let them rest for another 10 minutes.
- Ok – another warning. Red Chile STAINS. Those clear Tupperware bowls and rubber spatulas will not be so clean and white when we’re done. Keep that in mind and choose your utensils, bowls, clothing, etc accordingly.
- CAREFULLY ladle out the chile mixture to a blender and fill it about halfway full.
- Do NOT overfill your blender! Highly pressurized, exploding hot chile oil is NOT a good thing.
- Blend on high until it’s a smooth consistency.
- Take another bowl, preferably a ceramic one, and place a strainer inside. Pour the blended chile mixture into the strainer. It’s going to have a lot of pulp from the chile skins and will not easily strain, so you’re going to have to use a rubber spatula to scrap around and press down until all the liquid has strained into your bowl. This takes a while, be patient.
- Dump the pulp out of your strainer and repeat for whatever is left in your blender. When you’re done you’ll have a bowl of red chile liquid. But we’re not quite done yet…..almost.
- Add 2 tablespoons of flour, another ½ tsp each of cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder, and 4 tablespoons of low sodium veggie broth to a soup pan and whisk on medium-low heat, until a pasty roux is formed.
- When the roux is all nice and bubbly, slowly add your chile mixture and whisk until it starts to thicken.
There you go, take a taste…..mmmmmm. Pure New Mexico goodness. Now traditionally New Mexicans will use lard to form their roux, but since we ARE vegans, I used Veggie Broth instead. It doesn’t change the flavor that much and it’s a lot healthier.
One of my favorite ways to use this sauce is on papas (potatoes). Pour this over a baked potato with a spoonful of my Cashew Cheese Sauce and oh man, good eats.