Chile Colorado

I got this recipe from Wesley Avila’s cookbook called Guerilla Tacos, published in 2017. It’s probably one of the most conservative recipes in the book, but I just had to taste the sauce.

The chef certainly proves that tacos can pretty much be made with anything, highlighting in his recipes some with uni, foie gras, mussels, sun chokes, and more. As Mr. Avila states in the introduction, “A taco is a blank canvas.”

Over the years I’ve made lots of Mexican and Southwestern “stews,” but I’ve never made chile Colorado, so it was a perfect recipe, and one that wouldn’t revolt my husband. (I have to admit I didn’t enjoy uni when I first had it.)

The book is fabulous, but to me, it’s mostly because of the story Chef Avila tells, from his childhood with Mexican-born parents, his mother dying, to his time as a teamster, then attending culinary school, working at a fine dining restaurant, then finally with a food truck, called, not surprisingly, Guerilla Tacos.

Although of Mexican heritage, Mr. Avila makes sure the reader understands that the recipes in the cookbooks are “not “authentic” Mexican food. “The truth is there is no such thing as an authentic taco. “Taco makers have always known this.”

Chile Colorado

3 pounds beef, in one piece, like a hanger steak
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 Roma tomatoes, chopped, seeded
1 cup husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 dried pasilla pepper, stemmed and seeded
2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 dried chile morita, stemmed and seeded
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
16-18 corn tortillas, warmed
2 red onions, very thinly sliced

Trim the meat, and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch pieces, like you’re making fajitas. Season with salt and pepper.

In a 10” cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Working in four batches, sear the beef until it is browned, about 2 minutes per batch. You don’t want it cooked too much, just coated with oil and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to another container.

In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the yellow onion and cumin seeds until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. (I added another tablespoon of oil first.) Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, all 3 dried chiles, and bay leaves and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are cooked and the chiles are soft.

Turn the heat to a medium-low and add the water to keep it saucy. (My sauce didn’t require any water, perhaps because I used a lid to cook the tomatoes and tomatillo mixture.) Transfer to a blender and process to make the sauce as smooth as possible. I added about 1 tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste because my Roma tomatoes were not super ripe.

Return the meat to the pan and cover with the sauce.

Serve family style, with the tortillas and red onions, and let everybody make their own tacos.

I noticed a couple of mistakes… nothing huge. But for one thing, why worry about it the beef is from an intact piece, rather than, say, 2 flank steaks? Since you’re going to be cutting it up anyway?

And, Mr. Avila writes to add the pasilla, and dried chiles to the pan, when all three chile peppers used in this recipe are dried.

I also would have preferred a weight of tomatillos, but I know the outcome plus or minus an ounce of tomatillo isn’t crucial. Just some editing issues.

This chile Colorado sauce was a hit. Not much heat, which can always be added, but a lot of depth of flavors.

And, a big thank you to Greg, from Sippitysup.com, for telling us all about Guerilla Tacos.

47 thoughts on “Chile Colorado

    • Hmmm. The meat looks beautifully browned to me. I think overcrowding a skillet is the biggest deterrent to good browning. But thanks, anyway!

      • You are right about over crowding. The issue with too much oil is that it fries in the oil and doesn’t promote the maillard reaction as much. Not trying to be critical – just a tip, Great post!

      • Look at the beef! It is definitely browned, and there’s barely any oil in the cast iron skillet. In the second photo there is more liquid from some juice coming out of the beef. I don’t have a commercial kitchen. I can’t sear at the highest possible temperature without my smoke alarm going off!

      • I hear you on the smoke alarm I have that issue as well. The meat does look brown, just looks like a lot of oil in the pan, could be the juice coming out of the meat too. Your food styling layout, finnished photos look great!

      • I actually wrote a post called “Searing,” mostly because of my poor ventilation system, which pulls the flames. Let’s just say I have set off my alarm quite a few times. So I purchased a Searzall torch attachment which helps with searing after a sous vide process.

    • When my daughter lived in London, I’d have to send her salsa, Sriracha, and other Mexican ingredients. But, you do get to live in France!

    • Ha! Thank you. I honestly wouldn’t want it any browner. It’s probably the reflection that makes it look like there’s more oil in the skillet? No idea.

  • This looks fantastic! Really nice combo of chile peppers — the flavor of this must be awesome. Thanks!

    • Kinda silly, but some mistakes in editing are so obvious to me, that I’m surprised they got through the final edits.

  • This sounds right up my street, even though I wouldn’t be able to get about a third of the ingredients here! Love the photos, too.

    • I hate that for you. I had mentioned to someone that I had to send care packages to my daughter when she lived in London, and always bring salsa, sriracha, and various Mexican ingredients when I visited her!

  • I love the tattoed arm on the cover of that cookbook. That alone would’ve made me want to buy it. I’m interested in the combination of tomatoes and tomatillos, for sure. But chile morita, guajillo chiles, and pasilla pepper? I don’t even know what those are. I can guess, of course, and part of the fun of this recipe would be finding out about and searching for those things!

    • I’ve totally forgotten where you live, but these days you can get various chile peppers easily. I’m close to Texas, and thus, Mexico, so that helps greatly. And I love using chipotle peppers as well. I always have jars of ancho chile paste in the freezer, which I’ll use as a base for a sauce, like what one would call an enchilada sauce. But I liked following an exact recipe as well.

      • I live in Chicago, which is a large enough and foodie enough city, that I’m sure I can find just about anything … and I know exactly which shops I might check out in order to look for these peppers. I don’t know a lot about peppers, so it’s a fun way to learn.

      • Plan on a crazy steep learning curve. The same fresh chile pepper has a different name if it’s dried, and yet another if it’s smoked!!!

  • Tacos really are a blank canvas! We love making tacos here…they’re a great way to use random leftovers or odds and ends that are laying around. This version sounds delicious! Also, this post made me think about the concept of authentic food. With the interwebs and such, I feel like the idea of authentic food is changing. What really is authentic? When it comes down to it, I just want delicious food!

    • Well, there’s authentic and traditional, and the Italians will fight you on this! I’m like you. I don’t care, as long as it’s good. I’ve had many a traditional dish in France that were just “meh.” So I don’t mind modernizing them some. Why not make them more tasty?!! People were eating what they could get their hands on to survive, not trying out for a gourmet club!!!

    • Well, you have to love the deep flavors of dried chile peppers to start with, plus some spices. Normally I’d add more spices and heat, but it was really good and just flavorful, which is nice.

  • I’m excited to see this book on your site. My brother is a huge fan of Guerilla Tacos and I believe I’ve driven by the place where they make there tortillas in downtown LA. The recipe you chose sounds so delicious. I always order Chili Colorado in a restaurant when I can. Yum. :-) ~Valentina

    • See, I would have called it CHILI Colorado as well, and i wondered why he calls it CHILE Colorado. Nonetheless, it is a fabulous recipe!

      • I’d say “technically” it should be CHILI as there are more than one kind called for. Like when CHILI powder has a mixture of varieties as opposed to Ancho CHILE powder which is all one kind.

      • Exactly. I’ve given up fighting people on this subject. I had a chile pepper book by Mark Miller, probably published in the 80’s, where he explains it all, and I’ve since seen thousands of mistakes. However, Europeans and Indians call chile peppers chilis or chillis, and I understand there’s a difference there. It’s definitely a chili. Should we give him a ring?

  • I love this book and this was the first thing I made out of it too. I’ve since tried many others and they’re all good. But it’s his salsa I turn to the most even when I’m not using them on tacos. GREG

    • Good to know! I just remember the sweet potato tacos you made from the book. Everything looks so good in it, except for the Uni tacos…

      • I’d probably never make the uni taco. Too hard to get good uni at home. But I’ve had them dozens of times at his truck (back in the day) and they’re wonderful. GREG

      • I had uni topped with a quail egg at a sushi place in Los Angeles around 1977.. on a date… i kinda gagged and had to spit it out. It was embarrassing. I’ve been told to try it again, because perhaps my tastes have changed. Who knows.

  • How delicious does that look? The flavors sound amazing. You remind me that it’s been a while since I tried my hand at a Mexican dish. This might be the one to get me back into the game. (Uni by the way, was love at first bite for me. Enjoyed both flavor and that creamy texture.)

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