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      RECIPE TITLE "Essential Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce (Salsa de Chile Chipotle y Jitomate) "
    Recipe from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant flavors of a World-Class Cuisine  by Rick Bayless

    ... more great recipes by Rick Bayless on our GREAT CHEFS page!

    yields Makes about 2 cups  time--- difficultyeasy

    How the mettle of roasted tomatoes changes when simmered with habanero! Sure, the hot chile gives them some piquancy (though the chile in this recipe is just cut in half in traditional Yucatecan style, so it won't impart much), but they also take on that flavor so many of us have grown to love -- fruity, herby, complex. In short, deliciously, unusually habanero.

    This is a cooked mixture (hence the name sauce), but it's thought of more as a salsa in Yucatan, set out at room temperature to spoon on another preparation. That's mostly how we've used it throughout the book, but feel free to add 1 cup of chicken broth to it once it's reduced and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. You'll have an all-purpose habanero sauce to use on enchiladas or eggs.

    Yucatecans roast lots of their vegetables, usually on a griddle since ovens with broilers are not common. I've described the traditional method for the tomatoes, then given you the simpler, more controlled broiler method. Replacing fresh tomatoes with good-quality canned is an option (you'll need a 28-ounce can); you'll miss the toasty flavor, but the sauce will certainly be worth making.

      RECIPE INGREDIENTS

    1 1/2 pounds (3 medium-large or 9 to 12 plum) ripe tomatoes
    1 1/2 tablespoons rich-tasting lard or olive or vegetable oil
    1 small (4-ounce) white onion, thinly sliced
    1 fresh habanero chile, halved
    Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon

      DIRECTIONS

    1. Toasting and roasting the key ingredients. Set a heavy ungreased skillet or griddle over medium heat. If using dried chiles, break off their stems. Toast the chiles a few at a time: Lay on the hot surface, press flat for a few seconds with a metal spatula (they'll crackle faintly and release their smoky aroma), then flip and press down to toast the other side. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl, cover with hot water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure even soaking. Pour off all the water and discard.

    If using canned chiles, simply remove them from the adobo they're packed in.

    On a heavy, ungreased skillet or griddle over medium heat (you'll already have it on if you're using dried chiles), roast the unpeeled garlic, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and soft, about 15 minutes. Cool, slip off the papery skins, and roughly chop.

    Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot broiler. When they blister, blacken and soften on one side, about 6 minutes, turn them over and roast on the other side. Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.

    2. The sauce. Scrape the tomatoes and their juices into a food processor or blender and add the rehydrated or canned chiles and garlic. Pulse the machine until the mixture is nearly a puree -- it should have a little more texture than canned tomato sauce.

    Heat the lard or oil in a heavy, medium-size (2- to 3-quart) saucepan over medium-high. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and concentrates to an earthy, red, thickish sauce -- about the consistency of a medium-thick spaghetti sauce. Taste and season with salt.

    Advance Preparation -- The sauce will keep for several days, covered and refrigerated; it freezes as well, though upon defrosting, boil it briefly to return its great texture.

    Other Chiles You Can Use -- You can replace the chipotles with dried cascabel, árbol or dried serrano (serrano seco) chiles.

    Traditional Dishes that Use this Essential as a Starting Point

    Smoky Shredded Pork Tacos; Layered Tortilla-Tomato Casserole; Scared Zucchini with Roasted Tomato, Chipotle and Chorizo; Browned Vermicelli with Roasted Tomato, Zucchini and Aged Cheese; Smoky Shredded Chicken and Potatoes with Roasted Tomatoes; Smoky Braised Squab

    Simple Ideas from My American Home

    Sweet-and-Smoky Pork Chops -- Lay 4 thick pork chops in a baking dish and pour the sauce over them. Bake in a 325-degree oven until tender but still a little pink inside (allow about 35 to 40 minutes for 1-inch chops and warm sauce). Remove the chops to a baking sheet and increase the oven to 500 degrees. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and simmer briskly until as thick as you like. Mix 3 tablespoons with 3 tablespoons honey and brush over chops. Bake until nicely browned. Serve with the remaining sauce spooned around.

    Simple Chilaquiles -- To feed 4, combine in a large skillet a full recipe of the sauce with 2 cups of broth, 8 cups (8 ounces) of tortilla chips (preferably thick ones), a handful of epazote leaves (or 1 cup or 2 of sliced chard or spinach if that's easier). Cover and simmer over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, until the chips are softening. Uncover, stir well (the chips should be soft but not mushy; the mixture should be a little saucy), then spoon out onto plates and sprinkle generously with crumbled Mexican queso añejo or Parmesan.

    Dried Chipotle Chiles

    These darlings hardly need an introduction these days. We've become enamored with their smoky heat, but few of us understand that there are really two main types of chipotles, a black-red one and a light-brown one. They have different smoky flavors, though both are smoke-dried cultivars of fresh jalapeño. Most of us, I believe, are familiar with and attracted to the dried-fruit fruitiness of the black-red ones, the ones we know from the can that are packed in a vinegary, tomatoey, slightly sweet sauce (adobo).

    Black-Red Chipotle -- This category is called most often, I've found, chile chipotle or chile chipotle colorado in the Gulf region, or chile mora or chile morita, depending on size, in the Central region. A puree of toasted, rehydrated black-red chipotles is a very spicy but near-complete flavor -- it'll remind you of great, sweet smoked ham, if ham were naturally picante. Or smoky dried sweet cherries, or dried orange rind. And its full (and forward) heat is backed up by a flavor that's rich and lingering. The black-red chipotle puree comes out a dark, rosewood red.

    I usually don't distinguish between black-red and light-brown chipotles in the recipes throughout this book; use what you can get, they'll both be good. For any chipotle-based salsa or cooked sauce, I generally prefer the black-red ones; for stuffing with a warm, shredded-pork or smoked fish picadillo, I like the larger light-tan chipotles.

    Stats: An average black-red chipotle is purple-red to black with an intense, sweet smoky aroma; it'll be 1 to 1 1/2 inches long by a good 1/2 inch wide, 8 to 12 to an ounce, wrinkle-skinned (a good one will be slightly flexible), a little twisted and pointed.

    Light-Brown Chipotle (chipotle meco) -- Through the years, I've known these beauties (they look like well-worn suede) to have a variety of flavors, from very hot, grassy smokiness to sugar-and-smoke medium spiciness. In front of me right now is a puree of toasted, rehydrated light-brown chipotle that isn't very hot at all. I'm thinking of brown sugar, ripe pineapple, tobacco and mesquite chips as I taste it -- all in a good way, though the sum isn't as rich, complete and lingering as the flavor I find in black-red chipotles. The puree is mincemeat brown.

    Stats: Typical light-brown chipotles are a jute (or craft-paper) brown, 6 to 8 to an ounce, about 4 inches long by 1 inch wide, their striated, slightly wrinkled body (with rather square shoulders) tapering gently to a point.

    The Whys of Soaking Chiles

    When you taste a bit of dried ancho chile, chewing it and turning it over in your mouth until it softens up, an intense flavor seeps out that's untamed, even brash. But when toasted, then plumped in hot water, that ancho can be worked into a beautifully balanced salsa or sauce.

    Over the years, I've tested different ways of rehydrating chiles and decided I don't think boiling them is a good idea; it takes out too much of their flavor. Instead, I use hot tap water for softening the chiles.

    The chiles should be in enough water to float freely. Stir them now and again to ensure they're plumping evenly (you may find it easier to lay a small plate on top of them to keep them submerged). Soaking longer than half an hour leaches out too much flavor for me, and for salsas where I want a pungent punch, I suggest in the recipes soaking the chiles only Dong enough to make them pliable, usually 15 to 20 minutes.

    I usually discard the soaking liquid (it often adds a bitter edge) and use water or broth to blend the chiles and finish the dish. If pouring out the soaking liquid goes against your grain, taste the liquid, and, if it's not bitter, use it.



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