Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Enchilada Sauce

There is a lot of debate about authentic vs. Americanized. Authentic fans will get angry when I say this, but there is a reason why many of our "Mexican" recipes aren't authentic. Many of them are either spicy and tasteless, or just tasteless altogether. We Americans, those of us that is that are European descendants that is, prefer a bit more flavor. Not all Mexican recipes lack flavor, but it does appear that they are based on peppers and corn, which is fine because that is the way they needed to cook. Fortunately this day in age it is much more simple to obtain foods from all over the world, then it was way back when.

The recipe I have here began as an authentic recipe, but as I made it I was struck by the bland flavor. I then added a few more things to strike it up a notch until the next thing I knew, it was Americanized. I honestly didn't mean to go that route, but it was a demonstration on what I just discussed above. In the end, it really does NOT matter at all how you make it. What matters most is if YOU are satisfied with authentic. If you like authentic, then great! If you don't, then that's great too.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I started out with a beautiful green sauce but lacking tomatillos, I ended up adding red to it and - very unfortunately, and yet still not surprisingly - it turned orange. Well that's okay with me, but it won't be for everyone. Naturally a good rule of thumb is to use green peppers and tomatillos for Enchiladas Verde OR red peppers with red tomatoes for Enchiladas Rojo. Then if you want to be adventurous like me you can combine red and green to make Enchiladas Naranja or if you want to make it more pleasing sounding Enchiladas Oro. ;)

The Peppers

Pretty much any pepper available that grows in the southwest is good for authenticity. Naturally original Mexican cooks used what they had on hand. I've seen "authentic recipes" use only serranos, or a combination of anchos (dried poblanos) and pasillas or whatever. Clearly the idea is whatever you have on hand AND the heat you prefer. A serrano makes for a very spicy sauce whereas anchos and pasillas make for a rather mild sauce.

Know your peppers and select one based on color and heat. It is beyond the scope of this page to explain peppers, but a good primer or beginners page is this page on fresh chiles and this one on dried chiles. I used Anaheims because that is what I had on hand, fresh out of my garden. Actually, I had about 15 or 17 Anaheims and I used one poblano to fill in for the missing Anaheims.

I also wanted a bit more heat. I was too lazy to tramp back out to the garden and pick some jalapenos, so I tossed in about a teaspoon of pureed pickled jalapenos. Blasphemy I know, but there you have it.

Tomatoes or Tomatillos

Again, this is entirely up to you and the so-called "color scheme" you have selected. ;) As a tip, if you're using fresh tomatoes or tomatillos, you can cook them in with the peppers and add a bit more water. I cannot share with you the amounts here, you'll have to figure that one out for yourself. Sorry about that. Still though, it is possible.

Now let's get to the recipe, shall we?
  • 20 anaheim peppers, fresh
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes, pureed; OR 2 cups of tomato/tomatillo sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1/2 c. cooking oil
  • 1/2-1 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 4 c. water

Place peppers in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow boil or simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Lift the peppers out of the water (reserving the water) and rinse with cool water. Cut off stems and remove seeds.

Place the peppers, cumin and 2 cups of the reserved water into a blender and puree. NOTE: If your blender is smaller, put in half the peppers, half the cumin and only 1 cup of water, then repeat the process.

Remove to a bowl and set aside. Puree the tomatoes or tomato/tomatillo sauce with the cornstarch and set aside.

Preheat oil in a pot and saute onions until clear (but NOT soggy), then add garlic and cook for one minute. Add chile puree and cook for about 2 minutes, then add salt and tomato/tomatillo puree/sauce.

Simmer for at least 10 min. but longer if necessary. It shouldn't be thin, but not overly thick either.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

Sauce may be frozen or refrigerated for a up to one week.

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