Monday, June 26, 2006

Enchilada sauce

Each weekend, Brian and I sit down to plan our our dinners for the week, flipping through our favorite cookbooks and compiling a list of recipes, from which we make our shopping list. Whenever we're having enchiladas, I tell him, "Once you're done making the shopping list, I'll put down the things I need for enchiladas."

Yesterday was his birthday and he had requested enchiladas for birthday dinner. For probably the eighty zillionth time, he suggested that I write down the enchilada recipe, so that he can just make the list from that. And for the eighty zillionth time, I told him that I couldn't do that,
because if he had the enchilada recipe he wouldn't have any reason to keep me around. But last night as I put together the sauce, I did take note of what I did. As it turned out pretty well (sometimes I go a little overboard with chile peppers--nothing some extra sour cream served at the table can't fix), I thought I'd share it here.

(Do note that I make no claims about the "authenticity" of this sauce. It's just a tasty, spicy red chile sauce--much better than the flavorless tomato sauce most Mexican restaurants around here dump on their enchiladas. And some of them don't even seem to dip the tortillas before they fill and roll them. Punks.)

Elizabeth's Tasty Enchilada Sauce

10 dried pasilla chiles
1 large chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced*
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
12 cloves garlic**
2 teaspoons ground coriander
6 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano***
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 28-ounce cans tomato sauce****

*And seeded, if you're feeling cautious. Last night I left in all the seeds and the sauce had chipotle flavor but not a lot of heat.
**Yes, twelve. Be quiet.
***I am all in favor of using fresh herbs most of the time, but for a lot of Mexican sauces, I really believe that dried oregano is better. I do at least start with whole coriander and cumin seeds and grind those fresh.
****I've experimented with crushed tomatoes, with pureeing cans of whole tomatoes, and with the tomato sauce that comes with Italian herbs in it (well, that one was a shopping mistake). I'm a regular
Cook's Illustrated, don't you think? Anyhow, just use the plain old tomato sauce.

Stem the pasillas and shake out as many of the seeds as you can. Place in a large bowl and cover with 3-4 cups boiling water. Let soak for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the other spices.

Place the pasillas in a blender. Strain the soaking water into a measuring cup. Add about one cup of the soaking water to the blender, reserving the rest, and blend to a thick puree. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy pan. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, oregano, chipotle, and adobo sauce, and saute 2-3 minutes. Don't burn the spices or your sauce will taste bitter.

Add the pasilla puree to the spices and stir until blended. Let cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and the remaining pasilla soaking water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Let cool before assembling enchiladas.

This makes a lot of sauce. I made a 9x9 pan of enchiladas last night and had more than half the sauce left over. It freezes well. Or, you can make an extra pan of enchiladas and freeze them. I never think those taste as good when they're cooked, though, and once you have the sauce, the enchiladas are pretty easy to put together.

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