Enchilada Sauce

In accordance with belikeme’s policy, I hereby exhort you to “be like me” with this post.

Suddenly hankering for enchiladas, I studied the first several (non-ad) hits from searching “enchilada recipe”. Evidently the sauce is a major determinant of success, so I instead pulled up the first few hits for “enchilada sauce”. Many of these flogged the “just 10 or 15 minutes” needed to complete the recipe. Reading further, I realized that these entries were based on tomato sauce, adding ground cumin along with onion, garlic, and chili powders, and whisking the spices with flour into a roux. I inferred they did this to easily achieve smoothness, but with so much liquid they needed the flour a thickener. I wasn’t interested in such a short cut, so I decided to start with diced tomatoes, adding actual onions and garlic, adjusting the thickness with stock (to thin) or tomato paste (to thicken) if needed. Doing some desultory web research, one garlic clove per half teaspoon of garlic powder seemed to be the consensus, so I doubled that (we’re not garlic freaks, but most recipe amounts of garlic don’t pack enough flavor for us). Similarly, I found that one tablespoon of onion powder corresponds to a medium sized onion. With this slight modification to the ingredient list, I was ready.

I make my own chile powder. Onions and garlic are great as-is, but roasting them adds a certain delectable smokiness to any vegetable. We were running low on roasted garlic, which we like to keep around for ad lib seasoning, so I tossed some onion chunks, garlic heads (with most of the skin removed and the tips sliced off) and carrots (for later – if I’m going roast things, might as well fill up the oven) in oil, and stuck them in a 425 °F oven. The sizes weren’t uniform, so I harvested the pieces as they got nice and brown. We were also low on chili powder, and our guests were not really aux fait (or is that por cieto?) with hot spiciness, so I made some of that too. Two kinds: one mostly mild guajillos, and the other a mix of chipotles, New Mexicos, and guajillos. For chili powder I take some dried chilis, and, using shears, cut off the stems, halve them lengthwise and scrape off the seeds, then cut the strips into small pieces and toast them in a cast iron pan until they are just about to smoke. Then I pulverize them in a coffee whacker (which is not a grinder, by the way).

To assemble the sauce I needed some stock, and as I was planning to make chicken enchiladas, I bought two rotisserie chickens at the grocery store, stripped off the meat and boiled down (way down) the meaty carcasses. When refrigerated, my stock is really stiff. The meat I chopped into small bits for assembling the enchiladas later. I made two portions of sauce, one mild, and one hotter. For each portion I put half a drained 28 oz can of diced tomatoes into a food processer, with about an onion’s worth of roasted onion and four large roasted garlic cloves. A quarter cup of chile powder, a teaspoon of ground cumin, and half a teaspoon of ground black pepper finished it off. I processed the whole mass down to a fine puree, a total of about 60 seconds, pausing to scrape down the sides a few times, then put the mix into a pan with 2/3 of a chicken’s worth of my condensed stock. It was pretty thick, so I added half the reserved tomato juice and some water, brought it to a simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes. When cool, I put it in the fridge for the next evening’s get-together. Next time I will add more heat to the “hot” chili powder, maybe double the amount, and double the number of garlic cloves.