A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a bunch of dried chiles on-line.
Shipping was delayed a bit, and I kind of forgot about them.
So I was pleasantly surprised earlier this week when these beauties arrived: three bags of wonderful dried chiles.
I had ordered them with one thing in mind. Cooking one of my favorite dishes, Chile Colorado.
Chile Colorado is a simple dish. It’s basically a braise, chunks of beef or pork cooked for a long time in a seasoned broth. In the last hour of cooking time, a blend of chiles is added to provide the finishing touch and spice to the dish. Texans might call this “a bowl of red” – just meat, chiles, spices. No frijoles!
Served with warm tortillas, it’s really one of my favorite things to eat.
I made a sous vide version of this once, for a chili cook-off at my office. I knew it wouldn’t win, as Midwestern chili has beans, and sometimes corn.
White chicken chili is even a thing.
And don’t even get me started on the abominations committed in the name of chili around the city of Cincinnati, OH.
But I wanted to try it, so I made a version with boneless pork butt, cooked it in the sous vide for 16 hours or so, and took it in for the judging. It didn’t win, but some of my Hispanic co-workers told me it was their favorite. One even said it tasted just like her abuela used to make.
So I knew it was a winner.
Not that I’m bitter about it.
(wipes away a . . . No, it’s just allergies!)
I’m over it.
And we’re going to make it today.
It’s not a quick dish, but it isn’t complicated. I had to run some errands, so I adapted the recipe for the slow cooker, to accommodate unattended cooking. If you’re working from home, this is perfect. Start it before your afternoon of Zoom calls, and you’ll be ready in time for dinner.
For Chile Colorado, you’ll need:
2 – 3 lbs. of beef chuck or pork butt, trimmed into 1 1/2 in. cubes. You can use beef stew meat, or you can break down a chuck or pork roast. I used beef stew meat.
5 dried ancho chiles
2 dried guajillo chiles
2 dried pasilla chiles
1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano. No, you can’t substitute “regular” oregano.
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon cumin powder
1 Tablespoon sage powder
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
5 cups chicken broth, divided
Salt and pepper
The chiles and oregano are key to the dish’s taste. You can order them on-line, or find them in any Mexican supermarket/mercardo. This is where they will be cheapest. Look for dried peppers that are kind of like raisins – dried, but still flexible. If you press on the pepper, and it crumbles to dust, it’s really old, and has no taste. Your dish won’t either. Find those raisin-like peppers, and you’ll be much happier with the finished product.
To begin, season the meat with salt and pepper.
Heat a 12″ skillet on the stove, with a Tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. Use medium – high heat.
Once the oil is hot, begin browning the meat. You’re not trying to cook it, just searing and browning. You’ll probably need to do this in 2 batches.
While the meat is browning, add 3 cups of chicken broth, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano and sage. Set the slow cooker for high.
Once the first batch of meat has browned, scoop it out of the skillet, and add it to the slow cooker.
Begin browning the second batch of meat.
Once that’s completed, add to the slow cooker, along with anything left in the pan. There’s a lot of flavor there!
Cover with the lid, and forget about it for 3 – 4 hours.
Place 2 cups of chicken broth in a small pan on the stove. Heat to a boil.
Take the 9 dried chiles, and cut off the stems. Dump the seeds out–you don’t need to get every single one out, but try to get most. The seeds hold most of the heat, and this will be warm enough without them.
Place the cleaned dried chiles in a bowl. Pour the boiling chicken broth over the chiles. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and allow the chiles to steam for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, dump the contents of the bowl into a food processor or blender–an immersion blender will NOT work for this, and a blender is best.
Puree the chiles on high until smooth. Really blend the heck outta this–you want a smooth mixture. Put that OCD to good use here, and spend a minute or two getting it really smooth: start, stop, pulse, puree, blend.
If the motor smokes, or you smell burning electrical wires, you’ve probably blended a tad too long. The sauce is smooth enough.
After 3 hours or so, check the meat in the slow cooker. Is it getting quite tender? Then you’re ready for the next step.
Dump the contents of the slow cooker into a large pot, or a very large skillet on the stove. Add the blended chiles from the blender.
Cook over medium heat, uncovered, for another 45 minutes.
The chile will be a deep mahogany color. The consistency will be thicker: a stew, not a soup. The meat should be supremely tender.
Taste the chile. While it won’t be “hot”, there will definitely be heat. Season with salt and pepper as necessary.
You can eat the chile alone, or if you want to stretch it a bit, you can serve it over white or brown rice.
Warm some tortillas in the microwave or oven, and have these on the side. You’ll want to sop up every bit of that sauce.
And if you don’t like this?
You probably like beans in your chili.