~ "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." ~ "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" ~ "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." ~ "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."~

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Awesome Chile Sauce...Authentic Mexican Flavor

Awesome Chile Sauce...Authentic Mexican Flavor. ...Recently, I dined at the famous Frontera Grill in Chicago, owned by Rick Bayless....the famous Top Chef Masters winner. I have been wanting to try something authentic in flavor at home ever since I tasted some of his sopes, enchiladas with mole sauce, and various salsas.

I came across a chile sauce on BigOven.com called Colorado Chile Sauce. Actually, it was my inspiration for this sauce I made. I have never used dried chiles before, so I was excited to try something new and different.

While in Chicago, I browsed through my sister-in-law's cookbook, written by Rick Bayless. In that book, I found a chile sauce recipe that used dried chiles as the base. I was quite intrigued with the steps involved. The recipe required you to soak the dry chiles in sweetened water. I remember thinking, "Why sweetened?" But, I never bothered to write down the recipe. I just filed that information somewhere in the back of my mind:). Anyway, I proceeded to try the Colorado Chile Sauce.... the one from BigOven, that had initially inspired me. As I was making it, I noticed that the sauce was too thick, so I increased the amount of the chicken stock I was using. Which, by the way, I think adds much more flavor than just using plain water. Anyway, I adjusted the amount of liquid and put the whole sauce on low heat to simmer. I kept tasting it and found that the sauce was bitter! I was quite devastated...I thought I had just wasted a bunch of ingredients and my homemade chicken stock. It was the chicken stock that I was worried about, really:). But, then I remembered the sweetened water...

I did a bit of research and I found out that sugar takes away the bitterness of the chiles! Wow, that was such a big revelation! Now I understood why Rick Bayless soaked his chiles in sweetened water! It finally made perfect sense! So I proceeded to add sugar, a teaspoon at a time, to the simmering sauce. The sauce miraculously lost its bitterness...and I was thrilled!

Some recipes thicken the sauce with a roux(flour and water), while others let it simmer away until the desired thickness is reached. I chose to thicken mine with a bit of masa flour(used for making corn tortillas), just because I thought that it would bring in more of an authentic flavor. I am not an expert, but I thought it went rather well. Most recipes say to strain the sauce. Actually, I don't bother with that... I rather prefer the homemade look. This way, you know it isn't from a can:)!

The sauce is excellent for enchiladas, but can also be used for other various dishes. You can use it on top of burritos...sort of like a wet burrito. I did that for this post. My husband raved about the sauce and forgot all about the burrito:)! You can top it with some Pepper Jack/Colby cheese...the cheese blends wonderfully with the sauce. A regular burrito can be transformed into something rather quite delicious with this sauce.

You can also stew some carnitas, shredded beef /chicken in the sauce and use it on top of sopes, soft tacos, etc. Try using the sauce for breakfast...with eggs/egg burrito. I went to my whole foods store to get my chiles ( I prefer them without the added sulfites)... but, you can probably buy them at a regular supermarket as well. The pasilla chiles might also go by another name. Next time, I would like to vary the variety of dried chiles to see the difference. So here is my version...

You will need:
8-10 cups chicken stock(I used 10 cups)
5 dried pasilla chiles
2 dried ancho chiles
1 onion
6 garlic cloves
1 chipotle pepper in adobo*
1 TBS oregano
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS lime/lemon juice
1 TBS vinegar
1 TBS sugar
2 tsp kosher salt; or to taste**
*this is optional, but I love the smokiness it imparts
** I used homemade chicken stock, but if you use store bought, the salt quantity might be a bit different.

Thicken with:

1/4-1/2 cup masa flour
1/2 cup water
Mix the two until you get a slurry-like consistency and add to the chile sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens.


1. Wash and dry chiles...usually you don't need to wash them. But sometimes, I find that they have dirt/dust in the crevices of the chiles, so I just wash them.
2. Toast chiles. I toast my chiles in a dry skillet. That means I don't add any liquid or oil. You just want to toast the chiles for a few seconds(30 or so) by pressing on them with a spatula.
You don't want to burn them. Let cool.
3. Cut the stems off and take out the seeds.
4. In a large bowl, add 2 cups of the chicken stock. Place the toasted chiles in the stock to soak.
5. Let soak for 20-30 minutes.
6. In the meantime, cut your onion in chunks and toast them in a dry skillet along with the garlic cloves(leave them whole). You want the onion to char a bit...this will give them additional flavor. You can also do the onions/garlic in the oven underneath the broiler.
7. After the chiles have soaked for 20-30 minutes, add them to the blender along with the stock it had soaked in.
8. Add the onion, garlic, chipotle pepper, oregano, cumin, lime juice, vinegar, salt and sugar.
9. Blend until smooth.
10. In a large pot, add the reminder 8 cups chicken stock and the blended chile sauce.
Stir to combine.
11. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
You can thicken the sauce with masa flour/mixed with a bit of water
use a bit of flour and water....this all depends on how thick you want your sauce to be.

You DON'T have to thicken the sauce if you feel it is thick enough(in case you use less stock). I like to thicken mine using masa flour, just because it brings in a bit of the corn flavor to the whole sauce. But, if you don't have any, just thicken the sauce with a bit of flour/water slurry.

12. Use on burritos with a bit of cheese or as an enchilada sauce.
13. Store in containers for one week or freeze.
*This sauce will stain your plastic containers. You can use plastic bags...and then throw them away or use disposable plastic containers or wash plastic containers in a weak bleach/water solution.


Sailaja Damodaran said...

Looks excellent...

Ellie said...

Thank you Sailaja!

Anonymous said...

Hello Ellie! I wanted to do this recipe, but since I live in Romania I have trouble finding any translation for the types of chiles needed(pasilla chiles and ancho chiles). Will you please translate them for me? or if they are not to be found here, give me some tips about other chiles I can use? Regards, Andreea

Ellie said...

This is a hard one...Ancho and Pasilla chiles are specific chiles used in Mexican cuisine. I am not sure if they are translatable. I know the Ancho chiles are mild and have a specific smoky/pungent flavor....the Pasilla chile is also mild and more fruity in flavor.
Really, if you can't find these Chiles in Romania, you might want to substitue any dried red chile that is on the market. Make sure they are not too hot. Try to get them larger in size. The little ones will probably be hot....I wouldn't use them, unless they were sweet. I really hope that helps a bit.
Thanks for stopping by.~Ellie

p.s.If you really want these specific chiles....you might try ordering them from online. It will probably cost you a bit more...but dried chiles last a long time.

IM said...

Wonderful recipe Ellie, I made the sauce today and it is excellent! Plan to use it on a "wet Burrito". Thank you.

Ellie said...

IM, Oh, I am so glad you enjoyed the result! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and share your feedback... I really appreciate it!

I remember when I first came across the idea of making my own sauce for wet burritos and other Mexican dishes.. it just made everything look and taste so much better, and needless to say, brought my cooking up another notch:).