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Homemade Mexican: Make-Ahead Red Enchilada Sauce

red enchilada sauce I love Mexican food. I mean, really, LOVE it. Many years ago, when I first got serious about cooking, I bought a definitive book of Mexican recipes by cookbook author Diana Kennedy. I also took a serious class on Mexican cooking at a fancy culinary school in New York City. I bought a molcajete (a traditional stone mortar and pestle) and slaved over authentic moles that I was determined to master. I hosted Mexican meals for 15 where everything I served—chips, multiple salsas, entrees, guacamole, rice, beans—were all made from scratch by yours truly.

Then I had kids.

It’s easy to get lured in by grocery store shortcuts for Mexican food. There are so many options! And while sometimes you may have to go there, you don’t have to as often as you think. Homemade Mexican cooking (beyond quesadillas) is totally manageable, even with kids nipping at your heels.

A lot of traditional Mexican fare is simple food that doesn’t take so long, as much as require a few fresh, authentic ingredients that lend big flavor. This Mexicana Chicken, for example, reminds me a lot of Vera Cruz style cooking. And a lot of the more complicated recipes can be made ahead of time. These Green Chile Chicken Tamales can be made in a big batch and then frozen. Beans—make them ahead. Moles (even “quick” versions)—make ahead. Salsas—make ahead. Stews and soups (like my favorite comfort food of all time, posole)—you got it, make ahead. They are even better the next day!

This enchilada sauce is no different. You can make it ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. You can even freeze it. It comes together 1-2-3 and is so much better than the supermarket jarred stuff on every level.

I love this sauce with black bean and cheese enchiladas. And, though I prefer my chicken enchiladas with green sauce, this goes well with them, too. You can also use this sauce in a more all-purpose kind of way. Making rice and beans as a side? Flavor those legumes with a bit of this sauce. Delicious! Sauteing veggies for quesadillas. This sauce will spice ‘em up.

Don’t be afraid to go homemade with your Mexican. It’s healthier. Easier than you think. And tastier than you know.

Red Enchilada Sauce
makes 2 cups sauce

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chopped chipotles in adobo (about 1 pepper; add more if you prefer spicy)
1/2 tsp favorite chile powder (I use pasilla chile powder)
3/4 c chopped tomatoes
1 1/4 c chicken or veggie broth

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium flame. Add onion, saute for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute until both onion and garlic are fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add flour, cumin, oregano, chipotles and chile powder. Stir until you’ve got a fragrant paste, about a minute or so.

3. Add tomatoes and broth. Bring to a low boil and cook for about 10 minutes to bring all of the ingredients and flavors together. Remove from heat (this is safety precaution more than anything!) and, using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth.

4. Return to heat and cook the sauce for another 5-10 minutes to achieve desired consistency.

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