Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Mexican Red

I grew up in Southern California. I was surrounded by Mexican cuisine from the point of earliest memory, and can truthfully say that is my native cuisine. Yes, a bastardized California version of Mexican cuisine, but rooted in that culture certainly. The chiles of my youth were mostly Jalapenos, Serranos, Anaheims, and poblano varieties, and then later on the popularized Chipotle (a smoked jalapeno). No Tri-Tip BBQ was complete with out salsa fresca, beans, Italian bread, and guacamole. Fish tacos were also very prevalent in my early choice of sustenance, and wouldn't be complete without a tangy Salsa Verde, made with serrano, tomatillo, cilantro, and lots of lime. I continue to refine, change, resort to the basics, and delve deeper into these early influential cuisine items, and don't last too many days with out my fix.
Then everything changed! I left California in 1991 (never to return but for visits)and moved to Colorado. The coastal baja California cuisine started to fade from my radar, and was replaced with the cuisines of Northern Mexico, and Southern mexico. Cucina Vaquero (what I like to call it) "Cowboy Cuisine". Throughout Southern Colorado, and Texas, the vibe of Mexican food changes. Chile is often roasted, meats are slow simmered in red chile gravy, and the list goes on. The fish tacos, and bright, fresh flavors were replaced with smokey, dark, more deliberate flavors. I spent a short time in Colorado before I was transfered by the company I worked for (Wild Oats Market, now part of Whole Foods Market) to Santa Fe, NM.
Once again everything changed! The cuisine of New Mexico is a step child of Mexican Cuisine, but different in many subtle ways. The smell of roasting Green Chile on street corners, and gas stations in the fall is something that I will never forget. I spend a good amount of time re-creating New Mexican dishes, I grow my own green chile on the farm, roast it, save it, hoard it like it was gold. Red chile is the dried version of the green chile in it's fresh form. One thing that must be discussed is the fact that the New Mexican Green Chile is not made with Anaheim or Poblano peppers. The results are nothing like the real thing. What they grow in mexico, and California is not the same. I get seeds from Santa Fe, and try and grow the authentic chile. Unfortunately I have had trouble getting the same flavor at our farm in Wisconsin. Different climate, different soil, lack of the hot dessert summer all play factors. This following recipe is the red chile sauce I make. It is used for a meat marinade, for red enchiladas, and as a condiment. Eat is easy to make, and better than anything you can get that is store bought. Give it a try!

Alchemy Red Chile Sauce

20 dried New Mexican Chile Pods
2 cups. crushed tomatoes (we used canned product we grow)
1 Tbs. ground cumin powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 lb. 80% or better unsweetended dark chocolate (use the best you can find)
1 large red onion (rough chopped)
10 teeth of garlic
chile water as needed.

technique: Wave the dried chile over an open flame very brielfly on all sides. Soak the chile pods in warm water until they are soft. Retain chile water for making sauce (I also use it to make Spanish Rice). Stem chile pods and get as many seeds out as possible. Put all remaining ingredients into a heavy bottom pot and simmer at low heat. Add 1 cup (to start) of the chili water to the mixture. When everything is nice and soft, approx. 30 minutes, run the lot through a food processor until smooth. You may need to add more chile water at this point to get the sauce to the correct thickness. Put the sauce through a Chinoise (fine mesh strainer) to capture any remaining seeds. That's it!

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