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~ Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce~

IMG_1650I'm not proclaiming this recipe "easy" because I have an easy or easier version of a hard recipe. I'm telling you it's "easy" because:  it is easy.  It's so easy, I don't understand why anyone who loves enchiladas with red sauce would purchase any of the brand name enchilada sauces (and there are plenty to choose from) -- unless they don't realize how easy red enchilada sauce is to make.  I know, because for a number of years I bounced around from label to label, sampling store-bought brands, trying to find "the one just for me" in which "the spice was right".

A bit about New Mexico-style red enchilada sauce:

Red enchilada sauce, also referred to as "red chile gravy" is said to be the heart and soul of Tex-Mex cuisine, and, it isn't reserved solely for enchiladas -- it's often served with burritos, tamales and other Tex-Mex specialties.  As for its history, the rich, brownish-red flour-roux based gravy is described as neither truly Mexican nor American (it's Mexican-American).  It's said to have been invented by Anglo-owned Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, Texas.  Recipes for it have been in print since the early 1890's, and, by the 1900's, "enchilada sauce" was being sold in cans.

New Mexico is known for its fresh and dried red chile peppers, so, it should come as no surprise that any recipe for New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce would revolve around high-quality chile powder, most commonly:  ancho, guajillo and/or New Mexico chile powder (which is pricier than generic chili powder).   Some versions of this sauce contain tomatoes, tomato sauce, or, tomato paste, which add acidy tang and gives it a brighter red color -- my version does not.  I fell in love with New Mexico-style red chile enchiladas in San Antonio, Texas, and, I was told the bold-flavored amber-red sauce (that I couldn't get enough of), got its tang from vinegar, and its color from chile powder -- not tomatoes.  I didn't question it.  Later that afternoon, I went shopping.

IMG_2459 IMG_2481 6a0120a8551282970b017d4140e28d970cI made a small investment in some Mexican-style chili powder, and, for simplicity, I settled on one high-quality chile blend that's manufactured in New Mexico (Santa Fé Seasons via Apple Canyon Gourmet).  I added some Mexican-style oregano to my spice rack too.

Once you know what the spelling means, you'll know what's in it:

CHILE:  Spelled with an "e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family (example:  chile peppers grow in the garden).

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (example:  white chicken chili, chili con carne, chili sauce).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with an "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more types of dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of chile powder and ground, dried spices (common examples:  ground cumin, garlic and/or onion powder), meaning: the manufacturer has added various spices to pure chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

End the oregano debate:  they're not the same.

MEDITERRANEAN OREGANO: is a member of the mint family.  It grows in Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Morocco.  It's sometimes called wild marjoram.  Mediterranean oregano has a robust, savory, peppery flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Greek or Italian cuisines.

MEXICAN OREGANO: is a member of lemon verbena family. It's native to Mexico and Central and South America.  Sometimes called Puerto Rican oregano, it has a vibrant, citrusy tang and slight licorice flavor, which makes it perfect for use in Latin American and Tex-Mex cuisines.

IMG_17142  tablespoons neutral-flavored cooking oil (avocado, canola, corn or vegetable, etc.)

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce & Gravy flour (or unbleached, all-purpose flour)

4  tablespoons Mexican-style chili powder

2  tablespoons Sante Fé Seasons Chile blend (Note:  This is a blend of New Mexico red chile powder, cilantro and saffron.  If you don't want to purchase it, which I highly-suggest you do, omit it and add 1 additional tablespoon Mexican-style chili powder to this recipe.)

1  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon Mexican oregano leaves

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock (depending on what you're filling your enchiladas with:  beef, chicken or cheese)

1  tablespoon white vinegar

IMG_1601 IMG_1605 IMG_1607 IMG_1615~Step 1.  In a 1-quart saucier or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  Add the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Whisking vigorously and constantly, cook until the roux is thick, smooth, bubbly and short of browning, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Lower heat and whisk in the dry spices.

IMG_1617 IMG_1622 IMG_1630 IMG_1639~Step 2.  After the dry spices are added, the mixture will be, grainy, lumpy and bumpy.  Slowly and in a thin stream, whisk in the beef, chicken or vegetable stock, then add the vinegar.  Adjust heat to a steady, somewhat-rapid simmer and cook, whisking frequently but not constantly, until sauce is nicely-thickened and reduced by about 1/3, 15-20 minutes.  You'll have 1 1/2 cups.

Use as directed, or, refrigerate overnight (which I recommend):

IMG_1632Some things are simply better made from scratch:

IMG_1649Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups New Mexico-Style red enchilada sauce.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; 1 quart saucier or saucepan; whisk

IMG_9033Cook's Note:  The tortilla is Mexico's everyday bread.  Corn tortillas are made from corn flour (masa) and flour tortillas are made from wheat flour (all-purpose flour).  Burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos are classic Mexican specialties prepared using a wide variety of fillings.  Tacos and enchiladas distinguish themselves by being the two dishes made with corn tortillas, so please, do not substitute flour tortillas when making my beef or cheese enchiladas. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2023)


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