Recycled Ristras

Make your own chile sauce!

Is your chile ristra beginning to look battered, tattered, and beaten? Mine has been hanging outside for the past six months where it has been blown around by the wind and now it is looking pretty bad. It's time to recycle the chiles into a wonderful red chile sauce. Besides using it for enchiladas (my favorite!), it can be spooned into tacos, over tamales, huevos rancheros, or chile rellenos.

Here's how to do it:

Red Chile Sauce

16 to 18 dried California (or Anaheim) chiles

3 cups hot water

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup salad oil

1 teaspoon salt

1teaspoon oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 bay leaf

Remove the chiles from the ristra and rinse to remove any dust. Let the chiles dry. Spread chiles out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in a 400 degree oven for 1 minute. Remove pan and turn chiles over, returning to oven for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until they give off a lightly toasted aroma. Be careful not to scorch them - this will make them bitter.

Let chiles cool. Pull off and discard the stems and remove seeds and any pithy material inside the chiles. Rinse chiles in cool water, drain briefly, and cover with the 3 cups of hot water. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to soften. Then remove chiles from water, reserving the soaking liquid. Place a few chiles at a time in a blender, adding some of the soaking liquid and the garlic. Blend, covered, until a smooth puree is formed. Repeat until all the chiles are used.

Combine puree with any remaining soaking liquid and pour through a wire strainer. Discard the fibrous residue. Blend puree with salad oil, salt, oregano, cumin and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf.

Store chile sauce in the refrigerator, covered, up to 4 days; or freeze for longer storage. Makes about 3 cups.

Carolyn Gruenhagen
May, 1995