In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Make Enchilada Sauce

Rick (above), chipotles, guajillo, and arbole chilis, in that order. *

After tacos (any kind, with a special place in my heart for Jack in the Box tacos. Really), my very favorite thing to eat is enchiladas. I love the nuttiness of the limp corn tortilla, the meaty-cheesy insides, and the tangy, spicy sauce. There are all kinds of sauce, but the one most people refer to as enchilada sauce is red.

Now, if you buy enchilada sauce in the store you're getting about 4 oz, if you are lucky, and you'll need to buy multiple cans. This adds up and becomes a reason NOT to make enchiladas.

But they are so delicious. And such a great way to use your leftovers or to sneak greens into your diet.

So here's how to make red enchilada sauce. It couldn't be easier -- and most everything in it resides (or should reside? or can reside?) in your pantry. I learned this from two sources actually -- first, from a roommate who took a cooking class in Oaxaca, and then fleshed out with info from Rick Bayless, the genius of all things mexican cooking-like.

You'll need a mix of dried whole chili peppers (guajillo, chiptole, arbole, poblana... the list is endless. They usually come in cellophane bags and have lots of spanish printed on them.)

Put those in your pantry. You'll need about 5 large pods and a few small ones (or siz large or whatever. This is a forgiving recipe. Don't stress. You can use all the same kinds of chilis but I think its fun to mix, and probably tastes better.

Then get (or make) some good chicken broth. I like the organic kind, just because.

A couple of whole unpeeled garlic cloves, and a slice of onion about an inch thick. Can be a large or medium onion. Doesn't matter, really.

Now, in a cast iron pan (you don't have cast iron? get one. Best for cooking nearly everything, and I will explain how you care for it in a future post. It's easy and NOT horrible the way people make you think it is. You know who those people are? People trying to sell you Teflon, which will

give you Alzheimers or something.)

Ahem: heat your cast iron pan and throw in the dried chilis, the whole unpeeled cloves, and the onion slice. You're gonna let the garlic and onion char a bit. The chilis need just a minute or so per side to toast and soften a little. Don't let them get too black. Bascially when you can smell them either flip them over or take them off.

Now put them in a Pyrex cup in 2 cups of water, pop it in the microwave and get the whole mess hot -- 2 minutes will do it (or pour boiling water over the chilis into the cup. Your choice.)

Let the chilis sit for at least 20 minutes. Longer is OK.

Meanwhile, your garlic is charring in its skin. When it has scorch marks on all sides, and the onion is browned with some charring, take them out of the pan, turn the pan off, peel the garlic, remove any remaing skin from the onion, and pop them in a blender.

When 20 minutes is up, pull the stems off your chilis and put the whole chilis in the blender. Add about a teaspoon of powdered cumin. Pour in about a cup of chicken broth, and buzz the whole mess together. Taste it. Add salt as needed or more cumin. A teaspoon of lime juice could work or a little cider vinegar. Thin as needed with chicken broth, up to 2 cups. If you want to add a little of the soaking liquid, go ahead.

Et voila. Enchilada sauce. If you want something a little less spicy, you can add a carton (don't use the cans or you'll get Alzheimers or something) of chopped tomatoes... add just 1/2 cup to start, buzz it, taste, add more if you want.

Yesterday I used this (without tomatoes) on enchiladas made with mashed potatoes and sauteed greens and sharp cheddar. I topped it with a little sour cream to ease the spice of the sauce. Dairy is the only thing that will diminish too spicy chilis, FYI. If you ever eat a really hot chili and need to cool your mouth down, DON'T DRINK WATER. it makes it worse. Milk or cream or a spoonful of sour cream is your best bet.

* Pronouciation Guide: I took spanish for 6 years so I can help!

  • Rick (rick. not "Reeeek" like Shanon Doherty called Dean Cain on 90210 when she was pretending to be French and kelly and Dylan were back home knocking boots.)

  • Chipotle (chee-poe' -tlay)

  • Guajillo (gway - hee' - low)

  • Arbole (ar'-bo-lay) (In spanish the accent is usually on the middle syllable, but in the case of arbole for some reason I think it's on the first)

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