When I was a kid in northwest Florida, authentic Mexican food was hard to come by, and something my parents sorely missed after having lived in Austin. There was one little place, however, that fit the bill. Della’s was almost a hole in the wall and in an industrial part of town, but the food was amazing. The family that owned the restaurant was most recently from New Mexico, and they brought in their own New Mexican dried peppers. They made a thin, orange, fiery sauce that was too hot for us as kids, so we ordered our burritos and enchiladas “dry” when we ate there every Thursday night.
When I was nine, I got braces on my teeth. Once a month, I had an appointment with the orthodontist, wherein he’d tighten my braces, leaving my mouth sore. My appointment was at the same time every month, after school. On a Thursday.
Even though my sister and I ordered our food without sauce, they’d run it under the broiler before serving it, and the tortillas would get crunchy. After about the third month of struggling to eat my dry, crunchy burrito with a sore mouth, I asked for sauce. And lots of water. Now I have a blog named after a hot pepper. Go figure.
I bought a big pile of peppers to take the banner photo for this blog, and didn’t want them to go to waste, so I turned them into enchilada sauce. (My son helped me with the photo by tweaking it in Photoshop. Thanks T!) This isn’t exactly like Della’s sauce, but it is fiery and flavorful.
By the way, enchiladas are really easy to make once you have the sauce. I sometimes even buy canned sauce (Hatch is good), make extra vegetables when I’m grilling, and throw a pan or two together after dinner to put in the freezer for busy nights. I’ve followed the recipe for this sauce with one for basic enchiladas – use whatever filling you like.
(Note: I rewrote this post on 12/06/2013 to fit the new blog format.)
The best fresh peppers for the salsa are the relatively mild ones like poblanos or anaheims. If you must use some really hot ones, balance them out with bell peppers. One or two kinds of peppers will be fine. I like roma tomatoes best, or you can substitute tomatillas to make salsa verde. Use large dried peppers like anchos, cascabels, or guajillos.
- 1 pound fresh peppers
- 2 pounds tomatoes
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into big chunks
- 10 or so cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2-3 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ounce dried peppers
- 12 tortillas, 6-inches in diameter
- 2 1/2 cups filling of your choice
- 2 cups sauce
Preheat oven to 375. Toss whole peppers, tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves with enough oil to coat. Toss with spices. Spread in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for about 40-45 minutes. Vegetables will be quite soft. Let cool enough to handle.
Tear out stems from the dried peppers and remove most of the seeds. Bring one cup of water to a boil. Add peppers, remove from heat, and allow to stand for 30 minutes or longer.
Remove stems and seeds from roasted peppers, and peel away any blackened skin. Puree the roasted vegetables and dried, soaked peppers (including the soaking water) in a food processor. Spoon into a large glass measuring cup and add enough water to make 4 cups.
Oil a 9 x 13-inch pan or two 8 x 8-inch ones.
Corn tortillas are authentic, but you can use flour. If you are using corn tortillas, wet a couple of paper towels, squeeze them dry and wrap up the stack of tortillas. Microwave them for 2 minutes on high, or wrap the damp paper towel in aluminum foil and bake the tortillas at 250 F for 10 minutes. This will steam the tortillas so that they can be rolled up without cracking.
Spoon a little bit of sauce in the pan (or pans) and spread across the bottom. Divide the filling among the tortillas and roll up. Transfer to the pan and top with the rest of the sauce.
Heat oven to 350 F and bake until enchiladas are hot in the center and the sauce is bubbly at the edges, about 20-25 minutes.
Freeze remaining sauce.