Enchilada Sauce

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My enchilada sauce is a simple red sauce that is enriched with ancho chile paste and Mexican seasonings.

It is a rich and hearty sauce that I make to top black bean enchiladas, or just about any kind of enchiladas or burritos. It’s also good on meat, from chicken to ribs.

There are many authentic Mexican sauces in older cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine, as well as more recent cookbooks by Rick Bayless, who I consider the king of Mexican cuisine.

The problem with following those recipes is that they contain multiple chile peppers and other ingredients that I cannot get my hands on, so it does no good to use the recipes.

Because of this, I fall back on my “default” enchilada sauce, using home-made ancho chile paste. And it will taste different depending on the chile peppers used in the chile paste.

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Enchilada Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 26.46 ounce carton Pomi tomato sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Grindings of black pepper
2-4 tablespoons home-made Ancho chile paste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes. Turn down the heat if they brown too much. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.

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Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Mix in the cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper.

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Bring the sauce to a boil gently, then lower the heat and simmer the sauce gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until isn’t no longer “watery.”

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your black bean enchiladas by placing refried black beans and Queso blanco, or your choice of cheese on a tortilla. Roll up, place in a greased baking dish, and continue with the remaining tortillas.

Add the desired amount of ancho chile paste to the red sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, ladle the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Some people like them smothered in sauce, others, like me, like the enchiladas only partially smothered.

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Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

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Let the enchiladas set for about 10 minutes, then serve.

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I love a dollop of sour cream on my enchiladas.

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The sauce goes well with any burritos or enchiladas, with or without meat. And it’s fun to use different kinds of cheese in the tortillas.

The good thing about this enchilada sauce is that you can control the amount of ancho chile paste and other seasonings. If you want it smokier you can always add some ground chipotle pepper and paprika. But always use cumin and oregano if you want a truly Mexican-flavored sauce.

Ancho Chile Paste

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Having ancho chile pepper paste is a staple in my house, with as much Mexican and Southwestern cooking that I do. I might just need a couple of teaspoons, say, to season some sour cream or mayo, or about 1/2 cup of it to add to a soup, chili, meat loaf, or enchilada sauce. I always keep jars of it frozen, to use when needed. It also keeps refrigerated for about six months.

The name of this dark red stuff comes from the fact that ancho chile peppers are used to make the ancho chile paste, which makes sense. Ancho chile peppers are actually dried poblanos. I don’t know why they can’t just call them dried poblanos, but that’s just not how it works in the chile pepper world.

The flavor of ancho chile paste, made only with ancho chiles, is dense and intense. It’s essentially reconstituted chile peppers.

But you can use other dried chile peppers, and even include hot varieties for a little zing. I personally like to use a mixture of chile peppers. Today, I’m using anchos, plus guajillos and chipotles. I’m running low on my precious chile pepper paste, so it’s time to make more. Here’s what I did:

Ancho, Guajillo, and Chipotle Chile Paste

10 ancho chile peppers (large, stubby, dark and wrinkly in the photo)
8 guajillo chile peppers (long, narrow, red and smooth)
Handful of chipotle peppers, depending on your taste (short, dark wrinkly)

Shown below, from left, ancho chile peppers, chipotle chile peppers, and guajillo chile peppers.
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First you must remove the stems from all of the large dried peppers with a sharp knife, and discard. Then slice open the pepper bodies and remove the seeds.


Please be aware that even though these are not fresh chile peppers, they can still burn your skin and eyes.

Place the pepper body parts in the bottom of a large bowl.

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Add boiling water to cover the peppers. Place a smaller, weighted bowl on top to keep the peppers submerged for at least one hour so they can hydrate.

Set up your blender, and have a measuring cup and a rubber spatula on hand. Using tongs, grab all the peppers you can and place them in the jar of the blender. Save the water in the bowl.


Using the measuring cup, remove some of the beautiful pepper-tinged water from the top. Seeds and any kind of debris will be at the bottom of the bowl. Add about 1/3 cup of the liquid to the blender.

Purée the peppers, adding a little more of the pepper water if necessary. The mixture should be smooth, but not too liquid.

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If you have any pepper water leftover, use it in other dishes, like in a soup.

Place a sieve over a bowl. Scrape all of the ancho chile paste into the colander.

Using a spoon’s bottom, force the paste through the sieve. This process removes the chile pepper peels.
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Scrape the paste from the bottom of the sieve as well, and voila! Chile pepper paste.
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Place the paste in clean jars. Freeze, and thaw as needed.
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Note that this recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on much ancho chile paste you want! It’s the same amount of work!

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Also note that the chile paste will stain everything – your spatula, your sink, your countertop your clothes… You will have many orange spots if you don’t catch the spills immediately!

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Ancho-Spiced Bloody Mary

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As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I was inspired to make an ancho chile pepper infused vodka, by the discovery of Ancho Reyes, an ancho chile liqueur. I wasn’t inspired to make a chile pepper liqueur, but a vodka, on the other hand, was really intriguing to me.

I proceeded to make the ancho, chipotle, and coffee flavored vodka, and waited one week. It was finally time for the unveiling.

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The vodka has a beautiful reddish-brown color to it, and had a nice chile pepper aroma. I decided to keep things simple, and just mix this home-made vodka with a bloody Mary mix I enjoy, which is called Zing Zang.

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So here’s what I did:

Ancho-Spiced Bloody Mary
To make 1 drink

Lime and Salt for the rim, if you like your bloody Marys salted
2-4 ounces of the vodka, strained
Your favorite bloody Mary mix
Spear of jicama, optional
Garlic-stuffed olives, optional

Run a slice of lime over the rim of the glass. Sprinkle some salt in a small plate, and dip the top of the glass into the salt.

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Then add your preferred amount of the ancho-infused vodka.

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Fill up the rest of the glass with the chilled bloody Mary mix. Actually, if you prefer, you can include ice before you begin making the drink.

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For fun, I added a spear of jicama.

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As well as a few jalapeno slices and garlic-stuffed olives.
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verdict: This was a surprisingly successful vodka experiment! The bloody Mary was fabulous. The next time I might add two more chipotle peppers, and definitely include coffee beans. Unfortunately, I can’t think of any other drink that this vodka would be good in, but perhaps some of you have some suggestions?

Ancho-Infused Vodka

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A while back on Facebook, which is so educational and such a good use of my time, I discovered a post on Ancho Reyes – an ancho chile-based liqueur! I had mixed emotions when I discovered this. First of all, I really wanted to try it. Secondly, I was wondering why I’d never thought of it.

I reposted the link to this liqueur on Facebook, and not surprisingly, my friend Richard from REM Cooks messaged me and wrote, “I wonder if I can make this?!!”

See? Facebook isn’t a total waste of time!

I thought I’d leave the ancho chile pepper liqueur to Richard. However, I talked to my husband about making an infused vodka with dried chile peppers instead. And surprisingly, he mentioned that it would be good in a bloody Mary!!! He doesn’t even drink bloody Marys!

Then I couldn’t quit thinking about this vodka or the Bloody Marys. So I made it. Here’s what I did.

Ancho-Infused Vodka with a Touch of Chipotle

1 750 ml bottle Voli coffee-infused vodka
2 ancho chile peppers
2 chipotle peppers

First let me say that I’ve owned this coffee-infused vodka for years. I’ve been too scared to use it seriously for a night time cocktail, for fear that I’d never get to sleep. I have no idea if it causes a caffeine buzz, but I don’t want to find out the hard way. I like sleeping. So, this vodka really needed to get used.

And what better vodka to go with a chile pepper flavor than coffee?!!! There are many versions of rubs for steaks that include both ground chile peppers as well as coffee powder, so I thought that the combination would be perfect. If I hadn’t used the infused vodka, I would have added a few crushed coffee beans to the recipe.

And the chipotles? They’re just my favorite flavor when it comes to dried chile peppers, and the smokiness will really enhance the anchos.

I thought about other ingredients like a cinnamon stick or a few allspice berries, but nixed them. Maybe for the liqueur, but not for the vodka. Especially for a bloody Mary.

I even thought about bay leaves and garlic, but decided to keep it simple.

So I got out the ancho chile peppers and the two smaller chipotle chiles.
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I removed all four stems, and then cut the peppers into strips.
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I placed them in a clean bottle.
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Using a funnel, I poured the coffee-infused vodka into the bottle.
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Then I closed her up and decided to store the bottle for one week. If the vodka is too chile-flavored, I can always “thin” it with more vodka, but I wanted the infusion to really count.
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In case you’re interested, here’s the Ancho Reyes website for the liqueur. There are even cocktail suggestions. But no bloody Mary! Stay tuned for that!

Spiced Cauliflower Soup

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Sometimes I end up with too many vegetables in my refrigerator. And when that happens, I make soup.

Case in point? I happened to have a lovely head of cauliflower that I didn’t want to go to waste, so I cooked it and made it into a creamy soup. Cauliflower has a lovely flavor that is so good on its own. But I couldn’t stop there with just a creamy cauliflower soup. I wanted it spicy.

So I reached for my handy dandy ancho chile paste. Every so often I make a large batch of it and store it in jars in the freezer. That way I always have some to use in recipes, like this soup. Immediately the soup became something altogether different – flavored with layers of chile peppers and lovely Southwestern spices. Fabulous. And so easy.

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This is what I did, and you can do it, too!

Spicy Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken into florets
1 leek, cleaned, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Broth of choice, I used chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk, or any non-dairy substitute
3 tablespoons ancho chile paste, or to taste
2 teaspoon ground cumin

Place the cauliflower, leek, celery, and onion in a large stockpot, and cover with water or broth. I use chicken broth powder to make my chicken broth, so I opted to add the powder at the point when I blended the soup. If you use commercial chicken broth, that works just the same.
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Bring everything to a boil, cover the pot, and then simmer until the cauliflower is fully cooked, about 20-30 minutes.
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Place the cooked vegetables in a blender jar, and only add a little of the liquid. You can always add more later if you need to thin the soup.
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Add the evaporated milk. Depending on the size of your blender jar, you might have to blend this soup in two batches, so use about half of the vegetables and half of the evaporated milk for each batch. At this point I also added my chicken broth powder.
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Blend until smooth. Add the ancho chile paste and cumin powder, blend, and taste. You might want salt. If you do, start with just 1 /2 teaspoon. If you make the soup too salty, there’s no turning back!

I needed to add a little more ancho chile paste when I added the cumin, which is why you see more of it. It totaled aobut 3 tablespoons but if you’re unsure of how much to use, start out with just 1 tablespoon. Of course, it also depends how much soup you’re making. Just taste taste taste! It’s your soup, so make it according to your taste!
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Serve the soup hot. I added just a little grated Parmesan for fun.
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Some queso blanco or just plain goat cheese would also be fabulous with this soup.
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Sure, it’s easy to make a cream of cauliflower soup. But go a little crazy for a change! Add some ancho chile paste and spice things up. When I tasted the soup I realized I’d made the chile paste with some chipotle peppers as well as ancho chile peppers. They really added something to this soup.

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