The chiles that are traditionally used for this sauce are the ones pulled off the ristras or strings of dried chiles. Ristras are not just used for decoration--this is one method of sun drying or preserving the fall chile crop for use throughout the year. Use this sauce in a number of dishes, as a topping for enchiladas and tacos, as a basis for stews like posole, or any recipe that calls for a red sauce.
10 to 12 dried red New Mexican chiles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 to 3 cups beef broth (optional), or water
1 teaspoon dried oregano, Mexican preferred
Pinch of ground cumin
Salt to taste
Arrange the chile pods on a baking pan and place in a 250-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chiles become very aromatic, being careful not to let them burn. Remove the stems and seeds and place the pods into a bowl.
Cover the chiles with very hot water and allow them to steep for 15 to 20 minutes to soften. Drain the chiles and discard the water.
In a heavy saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the chiles and a couple cups of water or broth and simmer for 10 minutes.
Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the mixture, if desired, for a smoother sauce. If the sauce is too thin, place it back on the stove and simmer until it is reduced to the desired consistency, or if too thick, add more water or broth.
Adjust the seasonings and serve.