New Mexican Tamale at Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico
When dining in New Mexico, the same question is always asked. Would you like red chile sauce, green chile sauce, or Christmas, which means both. As a cook searching for chile sauce recipes you will be asked if you will be preparing the sauce from powder or the pods. This simple recipe only requires chile pods, water, salt, and a blender or food processor.
I turned to a native New Mexican chef for guidance. Chef Rocky Durham is the executive chef at Sunrise Springs Resort located on the outskirts of Santa Fe. His philosophy is not only authentic to New Mexico, it is authentic to the wellness vibe at Sunrise Springs Resort.
Red chile is made differently from family to family, and village to village. The two main differences begin with powder or pods. Do you use whole, dried chiles or dried chile powder (not to be confused with “chili powder” which is a spice blend that might contain some cayenne pepper.) The majority of chile makers would agree that starting with whole pods is the preferred method.
A new, easy technique that Chef Rocky embraces follows:
Chef Rocky Durham recommends pods. Using disposable kitchen gloves will help avoid irritation to the skin on hands or accidental irritation via touching the hands to the face and eyes.
A knife is handy to split the chile pods. Since the chiles are dry, they can also be broken up by hand. Another great reason to uses gloves. Break off the stems and remove the seeds.
This is not an exercise in reducing the heat of the chile sauce, but rather producing a beautiful, bright-red sauce. The seeds are pale yellow and dilute the red color within the flesh of the pepper. I saved the seeds in an air tight container for use on my pizzas.
I place the stemmed and seeded peppers in a container and cover with cold water then placed a plate or other weight on top to keep them submerged.
Refrigerate the chiles overnight. I used about twenty five pods or half the bag.
The following day puree the rehydrated chiles with enough of the soaking medium to produce a sauce consistency puree. Add salt and water slowly to taste and consistency. A blender would also work well if you do not have a food processor.
The purist will add only some good salt to the mixture. The more avant-garde cooks will add sautéed garlic, yellow onion, oregano and sometimes honey to the sauce. Everything is done “to taste” as every chile pepper is unique unto itself and resists being standardized.
By not cooking the mixture, the color is shockingly red and all those super-B-vitamins (cyanoids) are left intact. Just warm the sauce “to order” when applicable but do not be afraid to use this for your enchiladas or other baked recipes. Refrigerate for up to one week. Follow Chef Rocky Durham on Instagram for more inspiration.
I decided to stick to the purist mindset for my first batch. It took much less salt than I expected. I could see adding other cooked veggies like onions and garlic to dial back the heat. Chicken stock could also add some depth. On my next batch, I think I will add some lime juice. Using vinegar instead of water would make it like Tabasco. Fresh is always best and you can definitely taste the difference with this sauce.
Approximately twenty five pods with about a teaspoon of salt and nearly a cup of the reserved soaking water produced one pint of red chile sauce. My meal plans this week for this batch include using it on grilled grouper one night and on beef enchiladas this weekend. I’m also planning on serving it on omelets for Sunday brunch. Red chile sauce is delicious on eggs. It would also be great tossed on cooked chicken wings with a blend of sauce and melted butter for Buffalo wings. I’m pretty sure it would also make an amazing addition to a bloody Mary.
I picked up the local red chile pods en route to Ojo Caliente for a day of soaking in the mineral springs. It is less than an hour drive from their sister property at Sunrise Springs. Hotel staff can arrange day passes if you are staying at Sunrise Springs Resort. Chef Rocky Durham has worked at both properties. Lightweight and easy to pack, chile pods make an excellent souvenir for “foodie friends.”