Instant New Mexico: Red Chile Sauce in a Jar
Photos by John Kiely It's hard to believe red chile in a jar could be this good.
I scoffed when I first saw Los Chileros New Mexico Red Chile Sauce on display in Central Market. The sauce is thin and scarlet-orange in the jar, and anyone who's dined in the Land of Enchantment knows that red chile sauce should be thick and colored an earthy red umber, like a reddish Tex-Mex chili gravy.
Los Chileros, based in Santa Fe, does sell some righteous red chile powder, so curiousity and a $5 sale price convinced me to give it a shot. I hoped that heating the sauce would reduce the thinness and perhaps change the color to something more convincing.
A little cooking did make the sauce take on the right consistency, though the color remained disturbingly bright. The sauce has an uncharacteristic tartness, imparted by the lemon juice that is added as a preservative, but the flavor is more authentically New Mexican than I expected. Sure, it's no match for the phenomenal red sauce at Cafe Pasquale's (The Breakfast Center of the Universe) in Santa Fe, but it's a hell of a lot easier to make.
Using Los Chileros Red Sauce and a technique for heating tortillas adapted from Mexican food expert Rick Bayless, I was able to put together a quick and easy recipe for decent enchiladas that rewarded me greatly for simplicity. In fact, I combined the words "enchilada" and "lazy" to create a name for them: Enchilalas.
Directions for Enchilalas
1. Heat about ½ cup of Los Chileros Red Chile sauce on medium heat in a saucepan.
(Red chiles are a source of red food coloring, so don't get any on your clothes or foolishly microwave it.)
2. Pour a 1-inch circle of peanut or corn oil onto one corn torilla, and rub it together with another corn tortilla to coat one side of each tortilla. The point is to get the flavor of tortillas cooked in oil, without the fuss.
3. Place both tortillas oil-side down on a plate, and microwave on high for 20 seconds.
4. Take the plate out of the microwave, put some Cheddar cheese on one half of each tortilla, fold them both over and microwave on high for 12 seconds.
5. Sprinkle on a little salt, pour the heated red chile sauce on top of the tortillas, sprinkle a little cheese on top and add some chopped onion if you wish. As with most enchiladas, a fried egg on top would take it to a new level.
Enchilalas are totally worth the lack of effort that goes into them.
Serve with water, because the red chile is medium hot.