Simple Green Chile Enchilada Sauce

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

I’m one of those people at the grocery store that is always reading the labels on food jars, standing there squinting under the fluorescent lights at the purposefully small print and clogging up the aisle traffic.  Sorry about that!  In my defense, once you start this habit, you just cannot stop; I have to know what is in those bags and boxes and cans.  The list of ingredients that freak me out are primarily added sugars of any kind to things that don’t need sugar (i.e. spaghetti sauce) and strange unpronounceable additives.  To this end, I wind up buying a lot of basics and making my own when I cannot can my own.  This strategy offers peace of mind and a smidge of savings in my bank account.

I used to rely heavily on mass produced enchilada sauces until my label reading habit turned me off with the high fructose corn syrups.  Since I declared my sauce independence, I have experimented to find a sauce that is delicious, quick and cheap to make on a regular basis.  I prefer green enchilada sauce to red, but you could easily swap out ingredients to make a red sauce if you prefer.

Simple Green Chile Enchilada Sauce

  • 1 -4 medium sized roasted green chiles (depending on spice level), stems removed and chopped
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can of tomatillos, chopped
  • tsp – Tbsp of ground cumin
  • sprinkling of salt
  • sprinkling of pepper
  • fresh lime juice (if available)
  • fresh cilantro (if available)

Slightly chop the chiles, garlic and tomatoes and place in blender.  Add the remaining spices and blend until a smooth and thick consistency sauce-like consistency.   This recipe is a simple platform for sauce and can be adapted to your own liking.  If tomatillos are too tart, try a can of regular tomatoes.  If roasted green chiles are unavailable, try canned chiles.  I guarantee you that whatever way you choose to make your enchilada sauce, it will be so much better than the canned stuff.  The above recipe makes one 9 x 11 inch pan worth of enchiladas with sauce on the bottom and top.

Let’s talk about enchilada structure now.  I used to be one of those people who meticulously rolled up my ingredients into the tortilla and hoped that it wouldn’t crack and break apart in the pan.  This method is why people do not make enchiladas on a work night.  Now, I simply layer the tortillas lasagna-style: 1 layer of tortillas (slightly overlapping), then the filling, a top layer of tortillas and sauce which is so much simpler!  Aesthetically, yes it is more of a casserole but the flavors are the same and the frustration level during prep is minimal.  Try it sometime, it is a better way to construct.

I love to make enchiladas.  My favorite combination is spinach, black beans, sauteed red onions, corn and queso fresco (soft crumbly Mexican cheese).  I often make the enchiladas vegetarian because I just love vegetables, but enchiladas are a bit like pizza and you can experiment to your hearts content.

It is a great feeling to realize that you can make the same thing that comes in a can healthier and better.

The Holy Trinity — of Pizza Toppings

Best.  Combo.  Ever.

Best. Combo. Ever.

When we moved to our awesome town in southwestern Colorado, I was very excited about many things including the close proximity to incredible nature, amazing ruins and green chiles.  In fact when I became a resident here, I made a vow to eat green chiles every day and thus far, I have come pretty darn close.  There are always roasted chiles dotting our breakfast creations and they have graced many a burrito.  Now, my new favorite thing is to add them to pizza!

Pizza night is an event in our house.  My sweetheart makes a mean crust (even at this altitude). Pizza night is not exclusively a weekend event, nor does it always happen at night as pizza afternoons are super too.  Pizza is a great way to use up leftover veggies that are on hand — upcycling, if you will.  However, our most recent flavor discovery, the Holy Trinity of toppings is green chiles, pineapple and bacon.  The smoke, sweet and spice are absolute perfection and my new obsession for pizza.  If we happen to have some smoked mozzarella on hand, we’re talking about elevating an already amazing pie to an epic level.

Homemade pizza is somehow intimidating, but it is really a simple creation.  There is so much that you can do with pizza from having a party where everyone brings a topping or two, to letting kids help make their own pie.  And. let’s dispute this notion that pizza is an unhealthy food; if homemade, it is a very satisfyingly healthy meal.  Pizza is so much more than greasy overpriced delivery pies and frozen cardboard-tasting facsimiles, it is a fun creation with myriad versions.  A personal pizza is something that you can make on your own for yourself.  Pizza is the ultimate canvas for your tastes and personalization.  Go forth and bake your own pie today!

Time to Hatch

If I ever decide that life at a desk isn’t for me (again), wind up with some extra money to invest in harebrained schemes, or have a strong desire to peddle wares at craft fairs, I am going to become a candle maker.  And not just any candle maker, but a savory candle maker.  My specialties will be lasagna, a morning edition scented with bacon and coffee, and, my personal favorite, a roasted Hatch Chile candle.  There are few aromas that elicit such pleasure as the smell of fresh roasted green chiles.   When I smell chiles in the basket over a flame, I am transported to a happy place full of enchiladas and stews.   There is no smell quite like it.

Alas, I will not be adding candle maker to my resume anytime soon, so I will settle for the scent that permeates the van and the house from transporting home 50 lbs. of roasted chiles.  The smell is impermanent, but the freezer full of chiles should last us a winter — even at our daily rate of consumption.

What to do with all this bounty?  I have learned to simplify my preservation methods over the years.  Two years ago, after carting home a bushel full of chiles in a checked suitcase, I labored for a day peeling, seeding and chopping the chiles to make enchilada sauces, which I then canned.  Although it was awesome to grab a jar of sauce and make enchiladas in a flash, the labor up front was not realistic this year.  Now I simply take the roasted chiles and put them whole (peels, seeds, stems, everything) into quart sized freezer bags and freeze them.  This method is so much simpler up front, especially if you plan on buying in bulk.  (A word of advice, regardless of preservation method, whenever you’re handling the chiles use either gloves or tongs.)  When you want some spice, you can grab a bag, quickly defrost and add to any meal. 

Green chiles are amazing in just about anything.  Now that we live in the Southwest where chiles are part of our shared cultural identity, I realize that there are few things you can’t put chiles in.  Down here there we have chile hummus, chile goat cheese, chile beer and even a chile chocolate.  In our house, we are a bit more conventional with our chiles, but they can — and do — adorn many meals.  One of my favorite winter dishes is a simple potato corn chowder with green chiles and homemade bread.  A little chile goes a long way and can dress up even the most banal of meals. 

Like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter, I have a freezer full of chiles that will be gone come next August.  And I cannot wait to eat them!

Out of the Roaster and Into the Freezer.

Out of the Roaster and Into the Freezer.