Chile Colorado

Okay, back to my Chile Colorado story... and back to Taiwan. 

When we lived in Taiwan (mid-80's) there were no Mexican restaurants, Mexican groceries, a taco or even a can of refried beans in the entire country. No one in Taipei had even heard of a Taco Bell, though no doubt they are now on every corner of the city. We mostly "did as the Romans" and ate Chinese food - but sometimes a girl just wanted a taco. We improvised, brought foods back from visits to the US or Hong Kong, and asked people to bring us things when they came to visit.

Through our extensive network of expats, Dave and I managed to gather enough ingredients (including tequila) to host a fairly impressive Cinco de Mayo party every year in our little garden. Once, I even made a burro piñata. That is another story I will have to remember to tell y'all... 

In 1986, the Taipei International Women's Club (an organization founded in 1951 under the generous patronage of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek) asked me to teach cooking classes to the members (32 different nationalities were represented as members) and the most requested class was "Mexican Cooking". A bit ridiculous, as so many of the ingredients were not even available on the island, but the classes filled-up in one day. I carefully planned the menu, recipes, techniques and wrote (typed on a typewriter and photocopied!) a recipe and instruction booklet for each student to take home. Interestingly enough, every student in the first class was Japanese... which is how I came to teach Mexican cooking to Japanese women in Taiwan.

I taught them how to make a red sauce, enchilada sauce, or as they call it in New Mexico: Chile. This sauce is essential in Mexican cooking - serving for a foundation for many recipes.

This sauce is much easier to prepare these days. The ingredients are no-doubt available now in Taiwan. Hong Kong. Oregon. Ohio. Kabul. Easier yes, but still I cannot recommend this recipe for the RV kitchen. Too many pots required. The sauce freezes well and can be brought along for moments when you would like to wow a crowd.

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1.25 oz dried Ancho chile peppers (about 3)
1.25 oz dried New Mexico chile peppers (about 5)
3 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 Bay leaf
½ cup white flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 pounds beef stew meat (1-inch cubes chuck roast)
fresh cilantro (optional garnish)

Heat a large skillet and coat the pan with olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté until the onion begins to turn brown (about five minutes). Add the garlic and stir for several minutes. Remove from heat.

Ancho Chilies

Remove the stems from the Ancho and New Mexico chilies and split open with your fingers or scissors. Shake-out the seeds. Discard the stems and seeds. Tear the chilies into 2-inch pieces and place the dried chilies into the pot with the onions and garlic. Add the beef stock, bring to a boil and add the oregano, cumin and bay leaf to the pot. Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat; leave to cool for a few minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Pour chile through a wire sieve into a bowl, pushing down on the solids. This will take several minutes, resulting in about 4 cups of gorgeous thick red-brown chile. (At this point you can use the sauce for enchiladas or freeze it for later.)

Heat a large oven-safe Dutch oven (with a tight-fitting lid) over a medium flame and coat the bottom with olive or vegetable oil. Mix the flour and salt in a shallow dish and dredge the pieces of beef with flour. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides in the hot oil. Remove from heat and return all the browned beef to the Dutch oven and pour the chile sauce over. Stir to coat. Cover and bake for three hours at 275°.

(Alternatively, the stew can be cooked in a crockpot; low for 4-6 hours.)

Traditionally, Chile Colorado is served alone, with maybe a little cilantro or chopped onion as a garnish. Some people serve it over red beans. Some people serve it over rice. Your choice. Serves 4 as-is, many more if served over rice or beans.

With just a few substitutions, the chile sauce can be made vegetarian or vegan to use over vegetable enchiladas or a bowl of red beans. Anyway you serve it, this Chile Colorado is sure to please. The sauce is heavily spiced, but is not hot. The flavors are deep, intense and so yummy. Enjoy!

Until my next update, I remain, your well-fed correspondent.