Thursday, October 20, 2011

Enchilada Sauce Using Rajas

Translation:  Raja /rah hah/ - n.  the pod of a variety of chiles grown in the Southwestern United States and other Latin American and Asian countries.

I received a call from one of my sisters asking how to make enchiladas the way our mom used to make them.  I was happy to oblige her and was alternately frustrated that I haven't made a tutorial on this.  I put the recipe in a cookbook years ago, but putting it here on the blog can help my sisters, me, and the girls in our family in the future.

A session of enchilada making can give all of us females (and males) the technique used in order to produce the final, yummy product.  What I wanted to focus on is the sauce.  This very elusive sauce is usually bought canned (yuck!) in a grocery store's fake, Mexican section usually entitled, "Ethnic."  (eyeroll!)

Daddy loves chiles from the Southwest because he lived there for seven years and loves to tip his hat to my Mexican heritage.  He loves the look of a ristra of chiles hanging from a doorway and the sweet fragrant smell of them freshly dried.  I didn't grow up using dried chiles to make our sauce.  Mom just used Gebhardt chili powder found in our grocery store.  The technique is the same just skipping all of the steps of the dried chiles.

After my sister's call on Saturday, I found a bag of Mesilla Valley Chiles from New Mexico that Daddy bought back in May when we went down to see my parents.

The Mesilla Valley.  Isn't that gorgeous?

I started with these:  about 15 chiles which was half of the bag I had.

Dried chiles and 2 cups of water
 Then I rinsed them to get the dust and any other particles off.

I placed these in a stock pot with the water and brought it all to a boil.

I brought the heat down to low and let this simmer for about 20 minutes just to soften and rehydrate the chiles.

Then they needed to cool.  I placed the hot, rehydrated chiles on a cutting board, covered them with a paper towel, and headed off to confession!  That should be plenty of time to cool them down.:)

I strained and reserved the water from the rehydrating process.

When I returned I removed the stems and seeded the chiles.  These are not hot so I didn't need to use gloves.  In dealing with fresh chiles the use of gloves would be imperative!

I placed all the skins in a large bowl and rinsed off any leftover seeds.

All of the skins then were placed in my food processor.  Mine has an 11 cup capacity so all the skins fit nicely.

About 1 minute of processing started to yield a nice paste!

I then added the equivalent of 3 cloves of garlic,

1 T. of oregano,

and 1 t. salt

I also added half of the reserved liquid.  This made a nice, thick pasty sauce.

Now that the sauce/chile part was ready.  I started on the roux.  A roux is basically a combination of lard or shortening and flour that is browned to create a sauce base.  This is what is used to make Shrimp Etouffé.  The only difference is that butter is used instead of shortening or lard.  I started by melting 3 T. of crisco in a saucepan.

Then I added 3 T. of flour

and mixed it.  You can see it start to sizzle and boil.

There goes the color to a nice, saucy brown.

To this you add ALL of the chile paste.  And heat it to a boil.

Take the other half of the reserved liquid and add it to the pasty sauce.

Boil the sauce adding any more water (I added another cup of water) to your desired consistency.  I like a sauce that you can dip softened corn tortillas into just to coat them for color.  So I looked for my sauce to just coat my spoon but still slide off nicely.

After assembling each tortilla rolled up with meat and cheese, ladle the sauce over the enchiladas.  Garnish with more cheese and serve!


  1. I found some dried peppers that say: "Chili Cascavel (Guajillo)" on the package. Can I use those instead of the Rajas? They look similar, but I know there are a gazillion pepper types.

    1. You can totally use those. Guajillo is just another type of dried chili pepper. Good luck!

    2. Thanks! I will try them soon. I've been craving real Mexican food like nobody's business. =)


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