I’ll be running this week a two-part enchilada series, culminating on Wednesday with what to do with that leftover turkey breast sitting in your freezer — Flat turkey enchiladas, of course. But today we’ll concentrate on what gives enchiladas their flavor, the sauce. After that and Fun Photo Friday we’ll continue with our series on that recent 29-day transatlantic cruise.
Purists will insist that enchilada sauce is best made with dried red chile pods that have been stripped of seeds and ribs and then rehydrated in hot water. Camelo (that’s “baloney” in Spanish). If the traditionalists are having trouble making a superb enchilada sauce from powdered red chile, it’s because they’re using the insipid, adulterated stuff from the local grocery store rather than pure red chile powder without the added spices, garlic, salt, and other ingredients.
For me that means chile powder from one source, which I’ve mentioned before: El Potrero Trading Post next to El Sactuario de Chimayo in Northern New Mexico. In addition to mild, medium, and hot red chili, they also stock green chile powder and the best chipotle powder (smoked red jalapeño pepper) you’ll ever tasted. Here’s a sampling of what they have to offer (and they SHIP!):
For today’s recipe I’m going to use El Portrero’s hot red chile powder. You may want to start with their mild and perhaps the medium mixed with mild, as even the medium exceeds the tolerance of many.
Here’s what you’ll need:
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 whole head of garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano (Hint: rub the oregano vigorously between the palms of your hands to crush the leaves and release the essential oils and fragrances)
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon (Yep, you read that correctly)
¼ cup general purpose flour
5 tbsp. pure, good quality red chile powder
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
½ square unsweetened baker’s chocolate (Yep, another shocker, but trust me)
A quick tutorial on the easy, almost tearless way to finely dice onions. First, sharpen your kitchen knife. I mean really sharp. A dull knife crushes the onion cells and releases the sulfenic acids that cause your eyes to react. If you’re crying, your onion is telling you that your knife needs sharpening. Now, slice the onion in half, peel off the outer layers, and chop off the top. Leave for now the lower root portion, as that will hold the onion together as you make the dice. Now make a series of slices from the cut end toward the root end, but don’t finish the slice.
Rotate the onion 90° and start the dice. Throw away the root end (it’s completed its task of holding things together and now it’s time to go).
Now take your chef’s knife and rock the sharp edge though the dices to break up any remaining larger slices.
Reserve between a quarter and a third of that diced onion for Wednesday. You’re going to need the reserved onion for the actual enchiladas.
Break apart your head of garlic and remove the outer skin.
Finely chop the garlic either by hand or cheat with a mini-food processor/food chopper.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add in quick succession the garlic followed by the diced onion.
Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent and almost tender, then stir in and toast your cumin, oregano, and cinnamon.
Add the red chile powder and flour and stir until the onion and garlic are completely coated. Continue stirring for a couple of minutes until the mixture is nicely thickened and the chile starts giving off its fragrant aroma.
While whisking continuously, slowly pour in your chicken stock.
If you think you just made a roux-based gravy, you’re not far off the mark. That’s precisely what red enchilada sauce is. Now continue whisking as you bring this delectable “gravy” up to a rolling simmer.
Continue whisking until the enchilada sauce is reduced to the right consistency.
What is the right consistency? Let’s do the spoon test to find out. Dip a spoon into the sauce and see if it coats the back of the spoon or if it just runs right off it.
Continue whisking and reducing until the spoon test gives you a thin but consistent coating. Don’t worry if that still seems thin to you as we still have two more thickening steps to go.
Turn off the heat and put in that half square of unsweetened baker’s chocolate. Whisk away until the chocolate is completely melted and fully incorporated into the sauce. This will take awhile, so be patient.
Now try the spoon test if you want. Thicker, but we still have one step to go for the proper consistency.
Put the whole concoction into a blender and process until completely smooth. For a little additional flavor you might want to consider adding at this point one additional clove of uncooked garlic.
Is it as thick now as you would expect a good red enchilada sauce to be? Let’s find out.
On Wednesday we’ll take this rich, red enchilada sauce and start assembling flat, stacked turkey enchiladas using leftover Thanksgiving turkey breast from the freezer. By the way, this sauce is the basis for several dishes. For instance, take away the cinnamon and chocolate and increase the cumin and garlic and you have the basic sauce of chili colorado con puerco (red chili with pork), or with the addition of vinegar and other minor modifications that very similar quintessential New Mexican dish known as carne adobado.