During my time pursuing a culinary degree, school didn't provide all my food-related lessons. I worked as a live-in nanny for a Long Island family, who introduced me to numerous new things: Delia Smith's technique of roasting meat at a super-high temperature, the standby of Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, and the recipe for Huntley Dent's versatile Red Chile Sauce. At the time, I never knew homemade red chile sauce could taste so good (or that I could even make it at home). The chile powder was transformed into such a luxuriously silky, heat-spiked sauce. They schooled me on using good-quality chile powder--my personal go-to choice for the recipe is Chimayo Red Chile Powder from Santa Fe School of Cooking.
The family would braise a hunk of pork shoulder in the sauce for hours, and then serve it over garlic-heavy, soft white beans. But my favorite way to use the red chile sauce is for enchiladas. Simply poach chicken breasts, shred the meat, then combine it with the sauce and cheddar cheese. Wrap in tortillas, top with more sauce and cheese, and bake in a 400°F oven until warm. Dollop with sour cream to tame the heat.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup red chile powder
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, warm oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté gently for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the oregano, cumin and flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until this roux-like mixture bubbles up and begins to turn a very light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
In a separate bowl, mix the chile powder and water until smoothly blended. Pour mixture into the flour-onion paste, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps. Return the pan to medium heat and bring the sauce to the boiling point. Stir constantly to prevent chiles from scorching until bubbles form. When the sauce just begins to show signs of active boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes more. Make sure to stir a few times, reaching thoroughly around the bottom and sides of the pan to catch any lumps beginning to form. When the sauce is thickened, and smooth, add the salt, beginning with the smaller amount. Remove from heat and set aside until needed. The finished red chile sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon heavily.