Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mexican Red Sauce and Chicken Arepas

First, the non-food related stuff. I have come to the realization that my camera isn't going to be any easier to deal with anytime soon, and that the lighting at the house during the hours when I usually cook is nothing remotely near ideal for taking pictures. So I started thinking of buying a new camera that would allow me to do some manual focusing type stuff, and around that time my dad noticed that my car had gotten a flat tire over the weekend. Sometime in the past few days, something managed to slit a hole in my sidewall, and now I'm going to have to replace that. Since I'm still grad-student-poor, that means no new camera for me. Sigh.

While the pictures are going to remain in the crappy-to-mediocre territory, the food's still tasty. These arepas rocked my world.

And now, for the food! Since my TFoodie friends had asked me to write up the recipe for enchilada sauce that I'd finally gotten right, I made another batch today,  but kept it to a more saucy consistency. The great thing about the red sauce is that it can be used for so many different things - I use it along with chicken broth instead of water when cooking rice to make a very tasty spanish rice, pour it over hamburger meat to make tacos, thicken it up for enchilada sauce. I can even make it with hotter peppers and add some cayenne to make a spicy finishing sauce.

This recipe makes just under a quart. If I ever get around to it, I'll make bigger batches and pressure seal them.

Since we'd just had enchiladas the other night and I didn't feel like going through the trouble of tamales. Tamales and arepas are very similar, actually - both are filled masa dough, but arepas are fried while the tamales are wrapped and steamed. The red sauce went into both the filling and the masa - plus a little more on top. With a little sour cream and salsa verde, it made for a killer meal that we really loved.

Mexican Red Sauce

  • 1.5 ozs (about half a bag) dried guajillo peppers, seeded and cut into pieces
  • 3 c water
  • 1 c chicken broth (or stock for a thicker finished product)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp annatto
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 5-6 drops lemon juice
  • fine ground masa harina or cornstarch (if thickening for enchilada sauce)

Place the peppers in a pot and cover with water, cooking over low heat for 30-45 minutes. Puree peppers with an immersion blender and allow to steep for another 5-10 minutes, then push liquid through a strainer and discard remaining solids. Return the liquid to a pot, and add chicken broth, salt, garlic powder, annatto, cumin, and oregano. Cook over medium low heat for another 10 minutes to allow spices to intermingle.

If thickening for enchilada sauce or other uses, continue to cook uncovered until reduced, or reduce the amount of water used. Replacing some or all water with stock will also promote thickening. Stir in masa harina or cornstarch and remove from heat.

Stir in lemon juice to finish.

Chicken Arepas

  • 1/3 cup lard
  • 3 cups all purpose or coarse masa harina
  • 1 c chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c mexican red sauce
  • 12 ozs canned chicken breast, drained and shredded

Pour half the mexican red sauce over the chicken and stir together. In a separate bowl, cut the lard into the masa with a fork or pastry cutter. Add salt, broth, and remaining red sauce to masa and work into a dough with the fork or by hand. Form the masa into patties and fill with the shredded chicken, making sure to seal off the ends. Fry in about 1/4" oil over medium-high heat until golden brown and cooked through. If not serving immediately, transfer to a foil-covered cookie sheet and keep warm in a 300 degree oven.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and salsa verde. Makes 12 arepas.

Total prep/cook time: 1 hour for the sauce, 1 hour for the arepas
Happiness rating: 9/10

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