Food, Life and Love

The Missing Spice

There are certain dishes, ingredients, and spices that exude comfort. They remind us of home. Some of these treats we don’t even recognize as pantry staples until they are no longer available. When my love and I were in Italy, we stayed with a dear friend and college roommate. The Vogel family moved to San Damiano d’Asti over the summer and have relished at the weekend farmers markets, savored local wineries, and devoured local staples, but still something is missing. When  I asked them if they wanted me to bring them anything they requested brown sugar, molasses, peanut butter and the star of the show, Tapatio.

Growing up in Arizona you develop taste buds that can only be appeased with chiles. unfortunately for the Vogel Family, the Piedmont region in Italy is not know for spicy cuisine resulting in their morning eggs not quite being the same. There are also certain dishes that are simply unavailable to them in a restaurant, dishes like chicken wings, breakfast burritos, pumpkin pie, and enchiladas. They have been able to make most of the dishes including a home-made “Frank’s Red Sauce” for their chicken wings, but one dish they have yet to try to make. While we visited them we received one request, can we give them an enchilada sauce recipe? So Vogel family…here you go (I hear it goes great with Moscato d’Asti):

Enchilada Sauce:

4 pasilla chiles or poblano  (mild green chiles, large in size)

1 jalapeno

2 yellow chiles

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 t cumin

1/2 t paprika

1 dried chile

1/2 t chile powder

1/2 t dried oregano

1 lime

salt and pepper

Grill all chiles until skin is charred and flesh is tender. Place into a plastic bag, seal and let cool until you can handle them. This helps to remove the skin. Meanwhile bring stock to a simmer, add all of the spices and the dried chile. Let reduce for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the stem from the chile.

Stem, skin, and remove the seeds from the chiles (if you want more of a smoky flavor keep the skin on, it will change the texture a bit but adds great flavor and heat). Add chiles one at a time to the stock mixture and puree with a hand blender. (You can use an actual blender as well). Taste in between chiles to monitor the heat level.  Once you have the right heat level, squeeze one lime and season with salt and pepper. The sauce will get hotter over time and after you add the lime, so be careful that it doesn’t get too hot.

This sauce goes great with chicken enchiladas. Top your enchiladas with the sauce and bake. Reserve a small amount of the sauce to serve with.

**A couple of things to think about if you can’t find the specific chiles.***

You are looking for a balance of heat and flavor so look for some mild chiles and some spicy. Removing skin and seeds changes the heat profile of the chile.  The seasonings are extremely important so if you can’t find the chiles make sure to find cumin, paprika, oregano etc. Roasting your chiles adds depth and flavor. If you can’t find fresh chiles you can use dried, just reconstitute them in the chicken stock prior to blending.

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