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Homemade Red Chili Sauce


Cooking with dried chilis is a labor of love, and the nuances of flavor that come from this method really cannot be beat. Although reading through this you might also feel the labor it really is a lot of simmering, tasting and waiting for everything to come together – so why not just buy a bottle of hot sauce? Well, when you are done you'll have the best-tasting, most versatile sauce – one that will be awesome when drizzled on tacos, enchiladas or basted on chicken or pork.

First, a little on purchasing and handling dried chili peppers. Chilis come in varying levels of heat and typically are labeled on the package as to the heat scale. Before you re-hydrate your chilis it is best work with them using vinyl gloves. Carefully remove the stem by cutting a 1/4" below and then snip the bottom of the chili to shake and remove the seeds. If you want to take more heat out, you can cut the pepper down one side, spread it open and remove all the seeds, as well as cut out the veins. I like heat so I skip this step, knowing that I can adjust the heat down later in the preparation of a dish.

Ingredients: (makes 2 cups)

  • 2 ounces New Mexico dried chili
  • 1 ounce chipotle dried chili
  • 4 tomatillos
  • 1 large red onion, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Juice from half a lime
  • Bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup black coffee
  • 1 tablespoon apple vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Once your chilis are prepped, place them in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer on the stove and cook for 30 minutes, adding water to keep peppers covered. Place onion, garlic and tomatillos on a cookie sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Heat under a broiler to char the tomatillos.

Drain the now-hydrated peppers and place everything into a food processor.

Pulse until everything is chopped and has a uniform thickness. Do not worry too much about seed and skin at this point, as we will take care of all that later.

Place the chopped ingredients into a saucepan and add the vegetable stock, lime juice, coffee and bay leaf. Return to the stove and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring frequently.

After the mixture has cooked for 40 minutes, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding any pulp, seeds and skin. You might wonder why we cooked it for 40 minutes and did not just strain it at that point. Well, we want to try and pull as much 0f the flavor as possible out of the pulp. What you are left with is somewhat of a thin, beautiful ruby red sauce. Return this sauce to the saucepan and simmer for an additional 20 minutes, adding cumin, brown sugar and salt.

Yes, a labor that I love. The house smells amazing and you have a sauce with a depth of flavor you just cannot buy in the store. What are you going to put your red chili sauce on?

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