Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Food for the Soul: The Alchemy of Chile

I'm away in New Mexico for a few days, so the next few posts will be related to all the beauty that can be found there.

Chili a la Mode, by R. C. Gorman

When you go to New Mexico, it is impossible to avoid the glory of red or green chili sauce. When you order just about any dish, the server will ask you, "red or green?" Red is a little more floral, green a little more citrusy. If you can't decide, you can always say, "Christmas."

At home, we make our own red chili sauce, and it can transform many dishes into something magical: enchiladas, slow-cooked pork (carnitas), bean stew.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup ground dried mild New Mexican red chile, preferably ChimayĆ³
4 cups water or beef stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon salt

1. Warm the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until the onion is limp.
3. Stir in the chile and then the water, a cup at a time.
4. Add the oregano and salt, and bring the sauce just to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. The completed sauce should coat a spoon thickly but still drop off it easily.

For pork carnitas, simply add a cup or two of the sauce to a pork roast, and let it slowly transform in the slow cooker. Remember, the key to juicy meat is "slow and low." (For 5 or so pounds, cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9).

For bean stew, simply add a tablespoon full to each bowl of cooked beans.

La Chilera, by R. C. Gorman

You'll find that many dishes are transformed by a little heat from the chili sauce, and you'll feel great, too!

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