Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall has Fell

Inter-not Update:
When we arrived this time, there was a note stuck to our door that TelMex had visited us several days earlier. Dan checked the router as soon as he walked in the door. "I think it's working!" he shouted! With shaking hands he plugged everything in and fired up the computer. "By Damn! It works!" he said. We don't know how this happened. o far as we know, no one has died and released a port. At any rate, we are now enjoying high speed internet, and we are as happy as clams with our new services.

Fall has Fell:
When I was 8 or 9, my group of friends and I used to repeat to each other,  "Spring has sprung, fall has fell, summer will be as hot as hell!" Then we would laugh out loud because we had gotten away with saying a naughty word.

This year I said naughty words all summer because this summer truly was hellish. The heat was long, intense and humid - a deadly combination. Normally I am fairly stoic about the heat, but this year it drove me nuts. There was no reprieve, no way out - no matter which way I turned, it was just plain hot. I sweated buckets and took lots of showers and grumbled a lot to whoever would listen.

That is until we arrived back in Banámichi a few days ago. It has cooled down here - literally overnight -  and the  weather is delicious - 70's in the daytime, 50's at night. last!  With a huge sigh of relief I am settling back into my glorious outdoor lifestyle.

With the cooler weather has come the red chile harvest - a time that is very important to the inhabitants of the Rio Sonora - and to me.

A couple of days ago we drove to the tiny pueblo of La Estáncia where many of the red chiles are sold.
The ristras - long narrow wreaths of chiles - were hanging from walls, doors, and from racks by the side of the road. We stopped at one farm where a sea of gorgeous dark red blanketed the entire area in front of the barn.The chiles were being dried and sorted, the ones not destined to become ristras to be ground up into a fine powder called "Chile Colorado."

Seeing the chiles brings joy to Elena's heart. (Remember Elena?) This is where I feel a deep connection to Mexico and the  people who share my love of the sauce made form Chile Colorado. It is a deep red, fiery hot, sensuous and delectable flavor. I could drink it with a straw. It makes all my mucous membranes tingle and come alive. My eyes might water and I may gasp for air, reach for beer, milk, any nearby liquid to quench the fire, but I can't stay away from the stuff. I am addicted to it. It is one of my favorite foods in this lifetime!
Ristras for sale at the farm
Ristras hanging in a doorway

A sea of red chiles
Sorting chiles for powder
Those of you who are not familiar with Chile Colorado may wonder what to do with the stuff. A few years ago, a friend with an extended Hispanic family taught me what to do with the pods themselves.

Chile Colorado Sauce (from  fresh or dry pods)

Start with more of the pods than you think you will need - lots - at least several pounds - the sauce freezes well. Carefully wash the pods and remove the stem end. Scoop and rinse out all the seeds (they are way hot - if you use your fingers, be sure not to touch any mucous membranes!) Bring a big pot of water to boiling. Drop a handful of pods at a time into the boiling water until they are re-hydrated and a bit soft. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and put them in a blender. Add just enough boiling water to make the blender go and grind up the pods into a thick slurry. Pour the slurry into a food mill or heavy duty strainer and squeeze, press, or mill until the slurry goes into the container below and only the dry chile skin fragments remain. Discard those. Repeat until all your chiles are used. Now you can use the sauce directly, or put it in baggies and freeze until you need it.

Red Chile pods
If you have some Chile Colorado powder, you can still make a perfectly delectable sauce.

Chile Colorado from Powder

Measure out about 2/3 to 3/4 of the powder.
Pour 1 quart chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Very slowly add the chile powder to the stock, stirring with a wire whisk to break up lumps.
Whisking occasionally, simmer uncovered for about 30-45 minutes until liquid is reduced by about half and the resulting sauce has thickened enough to coat a spoon. Sauce is ready to use.

OK, you say, now what? Will the stuff be hot? You bet your sweet bippy it will be hot. How hot will depend on the variety of chiles you use. They come in various degrees degrees of ability to burn the mouth. If you have gotten a batch of hotties, and you have tender taste buds, I suggest you dilute the sauce with some good quality tomato sauce - the kind that comes in those little cup sized cans, not spaghetti sauce. A 1-1dilution is good. You can do more tomato sauce if you want, but with too much, the flavor of the tomato will overwhelm the chile flavor, which is a real shame.

A very simple way to use the sauce is to spoon it over grilled chicken breasts.
You can pour a couple of cups of it into a crockpot with a hunk of beef and in 6-8 hours you will have a delectable dinner.

You could also use it as the sauce base of chicken enchiladas.

The first way I ever tried Chile Colorado was in a Mexican restaurant in Durango, Colorado. They half-filled a soup bowl with cooked pinto beans, added some grilled chicken and then smothered the whole dish with a sizeable quantity of the sauce. Add a bit of cheese and some sour cream or guacamole and you will think you have died and gone to heaven. It is pure ambrosia.

This tells you a bit about Elena's tastes. I hope you will love this stuff as much as I do. If you don't live where you can purchase ristras or pure chile powder, DO NOT use the red so-called "chile powder" that is adulterated with garlic powder, cumin, salt or whatever. You will be sorry. It is NOT GOOD. It is a poor facsimile of the real thing. Sometimes grocery stores carry cellophane packages of dry red chile pods - especially in areas where there is a sizeable Hispanic population. Use those.

Good luck and my  blessings for happy meals that evoke the warm sunny climate and the cheerful loving people of the Rio Sonora.

1 comment:

  1. I am going to learn to love hot and spicy food! I want my eyes to tear too and to gasp for something to quinch the fire in my throat and on my tongue. It is raining like mad here in Big Sur today. Good day to read blogs! John off to Salinas to start his work week first thing in the morning. Glad you're having cooler weather too June! Miss you my dear friend. Hi to Dan.