When I was growing up, we used to go once a week to visit my Grandma Tina in the San Fernando Valley. The visits were filled with sights, sounds and flavors we didn't get in our Los Angeles neighborhood: the man who sold paletas (popsicles) from his cart, the neighbor's rooster crowing at daybreak, and some of the Mexican delicacies my mom didn't cook at home, like oven-roasted cabeza (goat's head). (My grandma saved the eyes for my grandpa! But that's another story.)
Dinners usually included rice, beans, flour tortillas and some kind of aromatic stew such as this chile colorado. The grown-ups ate the meal by taking a piece of tortilla and scooping up bits of food. I tended to pile everything into burritos.
Now, the scent of chile colorado is pure nostalgia. Traditionally, this dish is made using whole dried chiles, which are boiled in water, pureed into a paste and pushed through a strainer. But you can replicate the flavors quite closely using ground chiles as well. It tastes just like my grandma's. And now I (mostly) eat it like a grown-up.
This recipe uses beef, but the sauce can be used with pork or chicken or used by itself for enchiladas, tamales or anything your heart desires!
See the note below the recipe for how to make the sauce by itself.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet
2-2.5 lbs chuck roast, cubed
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon flour
5 tablespoons ground New Mexican Red Chile
3 tablespoons Guajillo Chile Powder
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
3 cups of the appropriate stock (depending on what you're cooking)
2 teaspoons salt, to taste
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar, to taste
Season the meat with salt. In a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven, brown the meat in 1 tablespoon of oil, working in batches to make sure not to crowd the meat. Set aside the meat and wipe out the pot.
Cook onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons oil over medium low heat for about two minutes. Add flour and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.
Mix in ground chiles, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for about one minute.
Add the stock to the pot and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the sauce back into the pot. Season with salt, vinegar and sugar. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
Once the sauce is simmering, add the browned meat and reduce the heat. Simmer, partially covered, stirring every once in a while, until the sauce has reduced and the meat is tender, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
Note: To make the sauce on its own, simmer it partially covered for about 30 minutes after pouring it out of the blender until it has reduced and become thicker. Then season with the salt, vinegar and sugar.