Spreading the Spicy: How I mastered my dad’s red chile sauce recipe!
Growing up, one holiday tradition that never wavered was my dad’s tamales. While everyone else was shopping on Black Friday, my dad was already prepping the masa and red chile for his quest to knock out 30 dozen in a weekend. This continued all the way into my adulthood, even my kids could see him work his magic and even help.
I never imagined Christmas without my dad’s tamales. But when he passed away from cancer in summer 2009, such was the case. But when December rolled around, I had to make a decision to let the season pass and mourn, or do my best to pick up where he left off. I went for the latter!
One problem. I am a horrible chef. Under my dad’s training, I tried for years to master his method of tamale making, but always failed. The red chile sauce, I nailed that. But mixing the masa so that a drop of it floats in a glass of water? Not so much.
My solution was to focus on my strength – the red chile sauce. I rolled up my sleeves, slid on my plastic gloves, and deseeded dozens of chile pods. I blasted the music of Mexican songstress Lola Beltran and whipped up sealed jars of my dad’s famous red chile sauce.
Christmas day, I passed them out to my family members so they could use the sauce whatever way they wanted. I loved the metaphor of us each taking a little part of him and blending his spirit – and yummy recipe – into our food.
While my dad used to tease me about my lack of cooking skills, I know this is one time when he sent me a wink of approval from Heaven!
Dave Cano’s Red Chile Sauce
3 bags of hot New Mexico dried chile pods
3 bags of medium New Mexico dried chile pods
Pot of boiling water
Six cups of beef broth
Blender or food processor
Pan and spoon
Salt and pepper
1. Wear the gloves and one-by-one, remove the stem of each chile pod, open it and scrape out the seeds into the trash.
2. When you have them all deseeded, put into the pot of boiling water and cook until they are all softened.
3. Set up the blender or food processor and still wearing the gloves, fill the blander ¾ full of the pods. Add in a cup of the beef broth and salt and pepper.
5. Pour the sauce through the strainer into a large bowl or pitcher.
6. In a large sauce pan, add 1./2 cup of flour and a bit of oil and heat on medium low to create a paste. It should be creamy, add more oil if needed. This will thicken the sauce.
7. Slowly add in the red chile sauce and mix thoroughly. You may need to do this step in batches because there will be a lot!
8. Now you can do whatever you want – pour it over tamales, add in shredded beef, etc.
Understand your camera…and aperture. The first thing I always tell an aspiring photographer is to read their camera manual. Whatever camera you have to be able to use it to its fullest potential you have to be able to understand what the cameras capabilities are. My favorite setting to adjust is the aperture. Just a note explaining aperture- The larger your aperture (like f/1.4 or f/2.8) the more depth of field you’ll have- meaning your subject will be in focus and background, if it’s farther away in distance from you, will be blurrier. Check it out on your camera.
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