Awhile back, I wrote about the ubiquitous green chiles I discovered while visiting New Mexico. Although those were wonderful, I had little idea that months later it would be a different chile haunting my memory. The meal was enchiladas with red sauce – on the surface modest but so full of deep and complex flavor that I've dreamed of returning for the sole purpose of revisiting that dish. The key ingredient was Chimayó chile powder.
The Chimayó chile is grown in northern New Mexico, between Santa Fe and Taos, where according to legend it has existed since 1598. Describing the chile in Saveur magazine, Deborah Madison wrote, "its perfume is remarkable — a particular mix of sweetness, richness, and spiciness — simultaneously grounding and exhilarating. It is piquant without being overbearingly hot, with a bite that offsets the complexity of its distinctive chile flavor."
After listening to me reminisce on and on about that enchilada sauce, my stepfather kindly mailed me a packet of brick red Chimayó molido, or powder. Following the enclosed recipe, I made a simple, fragrant sauce with the addition of flour, garlic, oregano, water, oil, and salt. Here are a few other recipes. It can also be used in any recipe that calls for red chile powder, like Emma's Chili-Spiked Sweet Potato Fries.
• Chimayo Chile & Mango Jam, from Chilefire.com
• Chimayó-Chile Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms, from Food & Wine
• Red Chile Sauce, from Chilefire.com
• Stacked Blue Corn and Red Chile Enchiladas Recipe, from 101 Cookbooks
• Buy it: The Chile Addict
Ingredient Spotlight: Chile Pequín
Ingredient Spotlight: New Mexico Green Chiles
Sense of Place: Southwestern Flavors and Ingredients
Sense of Place: Food and Cuisine of the Southwest
(Image: Emily Ho)