When I was in Ixtapa this Christmas, I spent time in the kitchen with Sol (Soledad) who is an incredible cook. The woman knows dozens of salsas and hundreds of Mexican dishes all in her head. My task while I was there: to learn how to make her fabulous hot sauces. I sneaked some dried chiles (which can all be found here) in my backpack and set about to recreate her spicy delights.
For this first sauce, I used a chile known as Chile de Arbol. This pepper is long and skinny (although not as skinny as some of the Thai peppers) and is a deep, dark red when dried. One of the things Sol stressed one should do is toast the chiles before making the sauces. A word of caution here: the spicy components of the chile are volatile, so when making these sauces, keep pets and kids out of the kitchen, use rubber gloves, and open a window for ventilation. Do not touch your face or eyes while preparing this sauce. Yes, it’s hot.
Chile de arbol peppers are very spicy, rating 8 out of 10 in the hotness scale, i.e. burns your tongue. Mixed in this tomato-based salsa, though, the spiciness is toned down and the smokiness is accentuated.
Chile de Arbol Hot Sauce
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup chile de arbol peppers, dried
1 small onion, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
6 ounce can tomato paste
1. Toast the chiles and onion on a saucepan until you begin to smell the smokey, peppery smell. Try not to inhale it directly, as it can irritate your sinuses.
2. Using gloves, chop off the woody ends of the chiles and, if desired (to reduce spiciness), pour out the seeds.
3. Place the onion, chiles, vinegar, oil, water and tomato paste in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste. You can add more vinegar, water and tomato paste to thin the sauce if you want (and also to tone down the spiciness).
4. Pour into jars and freeze whatever you will not use in the next week.
This sauce is great in soups and can be added to Mexican dishes such as huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, enfrijoladas. It is very spicy, so a little goes a long way!