It’s nearly impossible to use the word “enchilada” in a sentence without the word “love”. I proved this theory in my earlier homage to Baja’s beloved Los Tres Gallos.
Since writing my original Gallos tribute butternut squash enchiladas en salsa roja, I stepped my huarache-huggin’ feet back into that patio jungle of sea-salty hair and squash blossom sopes.
While dipping under dangerously romantic lanterns and hobbling on Mexican cobble stoned pathways leading to the open-air kitchen, I discovered Tres Gallos’ recipe treasure of dried chile barrels. Some chilies so small and spicy just one could light your night. Some dark and wrinkled like an old man at sea. Each chile adds authentic purity to Gallos’ many hand-and-heart crafted recipes.
As the rose-in-teeth good looking waiter traded my menu for a cold hibiscus tea, I muttered the word “Molé” and we had a language-barrier understanding that I was testing what these dried chilies were all about– the inspiration for this story.
The same way the worldly women of Gallos poured their contagious kindness into my mole, I dedicated my five-week winter break to five fiery feasting frenzies.
Huckleberry Thinn’s ancho and guajillo chile enchilada sauce appeared as a blanket to a dear friend’s birthday enchiladas, a roof to stuffed poblanos at a neighborhoooood Christmas dinner and a filler to my family’s Christmas tamales. My mole-like ancho & guajillo chile sauce opened mouths and hearts this holiday season the same way Gallos opened mine.
When I watched the Garcias clear tray after tray of double-batch butternut squash enchiladas doused in this street-style chile sauce, I knew the world was ready for my racy red enchilada recipe.
Huckleberry Thinn’s Ancho & Guajillo Chile Enchilada sauce
12 ancho chilies (dried chile section of Mexican markets and some grocery stores)
12 guajillo chilies (dried chile section of Mexican markets and some grocery stores)
1 bulb garlic, whole-unpeeled
2 cups chile water *see note in instructions
1 28 oz can Cento tomatoes (crushed or whole peeled)
2 scoops Better Than Bouillon chicken stock (or vegetable for a vegetarian sauce)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon cumin
for a smokier, spicier sauce, add a chipotle chile or 2 and some adobo sauce mmmm
early in your enchilada-making day, rinse 12 dried ancho (pasilla) chilies and 12 dried guajillo chilies > lay them out to dry.
turn on your oven broiler setting and set 1 whole, unpeeled bulb of garlic inside > roast garlic for ~10 minutes or until the papery skin starts to brown and the garlic mushes when squeezed > remove roasted garlic from the skin and set aside.
in a heavy dry frying pan (cast iron if you have it), toast chilies on medium heat side by side like sardines and use a spatula to press the chilies into the hot metal > do this to both sides for a couple of minutes until they are aromatic and slightly softened.
bring a stock pot full of water to a boil then remove from the heat > rehydrate the chilies in the stock pot > place a bowl or small plate inside the pot to keep the chilies submerged for ~20 minutes or until they are mostly soft (some will rehydrate quicker than others–this is OK)
once hydrated, run the chilies under water to remove the stems and seeds > add the chilies to a blender or food processor > add the roasted garlic > add a 28-oz can of Cento brand tomatoes (whole or crushed) > add 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves > add 1 tablespoon ground cumin > *add 2 cups of the water the chilies soaked in > add chipotles and adobo if desired > blend until smooth and add more chile water to thin out the sauce to desired consistency (thinner for enchiladas, thicker for stews) > place sauce back in the frying pan and simmer on low for 30 minutes > add salt and Better than Bouillon (~2 scoops) to taste.
Use this red chile sauce as a topper for stuffed peppers or tamales, a stew base for pork shoulder or shredded chicken, or my favorite…sauce for Huckleberry Thinn’s butternut squash enchiladas.
For breakfast or brunch, top these enchiladas with a fried egg and avocado.
This sauce is really a celebration of chilies; filling optional.
Rick Bayless On En-chiladas
Rick Bayless, the Julia Child of Mexican food says it best:
“If you happen to be in the right parts of Mexico, you can experience the thrill of [the real] enchilada in which the tortilla is tightly clad with red chile sauce as it sears on a hot iron griddle. It’s that seared version–the “dip the tortilla in chile sauce then sear” version–that illustrates the very essence of enchilada. Language tells it all. Tortillas that become enchiladas are not en-cased or en-robed; they’re en-chilied tortillas: tortillas enchiladas.”
Enchiladas take time, but the reward is worth it.
Vamos a Gallos! (let’s go to the rooster?)