Saturday, April 6, 2013

New Way to Make Sauce

Last night, I was in the mood for Mexican food, but I wanted to do something a little different.  I've started keeping 2% milk around for sauces, but I wanted to do something different than the usual béchamel.  Since canned tomatoes are ok at my house, I decided to do a tomato-based sauce.

I started by cooking down the following in olive oil:

1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/2 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. chicken Better than Bullion
 
The tomato paste gives some good "depth of flavor" when cooked down at the beginning of a sauce.  The ancho chili powder and paprika create some "earthiness".  The chipotle chili adds heat.  The chicken base adds some meatiness to the sauce.  Chili powder, oregano and cumin are also nice additions.  When everything  was almost cooked, I added one minced garlic clove (I confess, I bought a good garlic press for just such an occasion) and cooked everything for a minute.
 
Once the garlic was cooked down, I added a rinsed can of red beans and a can of fire roasted tomatoes.  If you can taste the can, cook them down with a bit of salt.  Simply bring to boil, and reduce to  simmer.  20 minutes is not too long, but it depends on you and your choice of canned goods. 
 
Once the canned veggies are tasting like something worth eating, add about a quart of 2% milk.  I heated mine in the microwave first to speed things along.  Once again, bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  The technique used here is a "reduction" - you boil the liquid down, and let about 50% evaporate.  It will thicken as you go.  Stir the milk frequently so it will not burn.
 
At this point, most of the ingredients are in place, so you can add more salt if needed, you can add more paprika for "earthiness", and black pepper for heat.  Black pepper is not good if burned, so adding earlier is not recommended.
 
When your liquid is almost reduced, add a cup of thawed frozen corn.  The sweetness from the corn compliments the milk and is a nice contrast to the heat from the chipotle and ancho chili powders.
 
I poured the result over some chicken thighs cooked with taco seasoning (homemade, no msg) and simmered for a few minutes.  I scooped the solid into a tortilla, poured the liquid over it, and sprinked optional mozzarella (it is almost identical to a popular Mexican cheese) on top.  Wow, it was good.
 
Reductions can be made with milk, wine, or stock.  The flavor gets concentrated and life is good.  You can finish it with oil or butter to smooth it out.  If you don't use cream or milk as your base, you can add some cream at the end.  The sauce thickens more as it cools, so keep that in mind when judging cooking time.

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