Recipe: Ancho Chile Paste

Forwarning – this isn’t a meal unto itself, so don’t make a batch of this and call out, “honey, dinner’s ready!” You’ll be facing a big letdown. Note: this recipe calls for a food processor.

  • 6-8 dried ancho chiles
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic – roasted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • up to 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon comino (optional)
This is a variant of the recipe found in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen cookbook.
Ancho chiles are very mild and pungent, and when soaked, smell more like raisins than hot peppers you may be accustomed to. I add this paste to just about anything southwestern that I’m making, whether it’s a fajita marinade or a mess of beans. I’ve even attempted to make a pasta sauce with this a few times, but I have to say that one is still in the developmental stages. If you do use this in a recipe where you want a spice kick, you’ll need to get the spice kick elsewhere, as the paste is more for enriching your dish with an earthy complex flavor that you won’t find by just chopping up some jalapenos.
Cut open and deseed the chiles, and open them up enough so that they can be pressed flat. The last time I bought anchos, I saw some chipotle chiles at the same store, so I added some of these to the mix – they really livened up matters from a spice perspective. Briefly broil or sear the chiles. If you broil them, make sure you do not over cook, as they will burn quickly and not taste so good. I prefer to sear them in an iron skillet – just get the skillet good and hot, and press the chile down briefly on each side for less than a minute until you hear a crackle and see a wisp of smoke (or is it the other way around?).  Once the chiles have been properly singed, soak them in water for about 30 minutes. While this is going on, roast the garlic. You can bake on 350 for about 25 minutes, or broil (but ten cuidado! you don’t want to burn it).  Squeeze the roasted garlic from its peel and gather the soggy anchos and place in a food processor. Add the olive oil and a little broth and process. You may not need much of the vegetable/chicken broth – it’s just there to keep the chiles honest and smoothen the paste as it spins around in the food processor.
This will make about a cup and a half. I store it in the refrigerator in a jar, and it keeps for some time. I can’t say how long, as I usually consume it within a month or two.
BTW – I don’t think I’ve ever listed comino as optional in a recipe before, but i typically don’t add it to my chile paste, as any recipe that calls for the paste calls for the comino, anyway, so why worry about it here? The same goes for other spices – if you wanted this to stand alone, you’d want some salt, freshly ground black pepper, etc. But here, we’re just making a paste to add into whatever recipe calls for it and worry about the complementary ingredients at that time.

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