Over the years, I have tried many and have prepared many spice blends, marinades, recados and adobo sauces. The one constant ingredient in all of them are dried peppers. Whether toasted, pureed into a sauce or in a powder form, the dried chiles are an essential and key ingredient if you are looking to prepare authentic Mexican flavors. The flavors and heat levels vary. Rule of thumb is, the smaller the pepper, the spicier it will be. In today’s blog entry, I would like to share a few recipes I prepared with a chile and garlic oil using the dried chile de arbol. It is on the spicy side, so a little goes a long way.
Salsa Macha-Oil and Vinegar Based Chile de Arbol Salsa (Chile Oil). In Mexico the name is Salsa Macha or Salsa de Aceite.
1/2 cup oil, plus 1/4 cup more reserved (canola or grapeseed)
1/4 pound chile de arbol, stems removed
5 chile New Mexico or guajillos, stems and seeds removed
6 cloves garlic
1/3 cup cider vinegar
Salt to taste
*more oil if needed
Tips~ Many salsa macha recipes also include toasted sesame seeds or peanuts. This recipe does not include those today.
1. In a pan, combine the 1/2 cup oil, chile de arbol, new mexico peppers and garlic. Bring up to temperature at medium heat. When the peppers become aromatic, lower heat and stir often. You want the peppers to become bright red and slightly soft. Do not let them get too dark or they will be bitter. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Transfer chile/oil mixture to the blender, add vinegar and salt to taste. Pulse to blend, adding more of the reserved oil if it’s too thick. Cool at room temperature and store in an airtight container in the coldest part of the refrigerator. When using for a recipe, scoop out the amount you will be using and return unused portion back to refrigerator. I find that if the chile oil is exposed to too much temperature change, it could spoil faster. It will keep for a few months in the refrigerator. Yields about 2 cups. Once you have prepared the chile oil, here are a few recipes I prepared, each with a slight variation.
Tips~ For a milder chile oil, add only half of the chile de arbol and double up on the chile guajillos. You could add some chile ancho as well.
Grilled Chicken Tenders Basted with Salsa Macha
1 pound chicken tenders or 8 pieces
Salt, pepper, smoked paprika and garlic powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, crushed
1/4 cup salsa macha
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 key lime or half of a regular lime
1. Season the tenders (to taste) with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Add the oregano and drizzle with olive oil, set aside.
2. Preheat outdoor or stove top grill pan to medium heat for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the chile oil, lime juice and honey, taste for salt and set aside. Brush the grill or pan with a little oil. Grill the tenders for about 5 minutes per side if thick in the middle. Before taking off of the grill, baste with salsa macha mixture on both sides. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes.
3. Serve as is over a salad or serve on slider size rolls with avocado, tomato, cilantro, grilled onions and a little crema or mayonnaise. Yields 4 servings.
Grilled Flank Steak
1 pound flank or skirt steak
1/4 cup salsa macha
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Olive or grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine the chile oil, lime juice, oregano, cumin 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
2. Lightly season the steak with salt and pepper, transfer to storage container or plastic storage bag. Add the chile oil mixture and coat steak evenly. Chill and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Remove steak from refrigerator at least 40 minutes before cooking. When ready to cook, preheat outdoor grill to high for a few minutes. Brush grates with oil, grill steak for 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Add an extra minute per side if you like it more well done. Remove from heat, tent loosely with foil paper and let steak rest for 5 minutes. When ready to serve, slice thin against the grain. Yields 4 servings for tacos.
Pan Seared Chile de Arbol Mahi Mahi
1/8 cup salsa macha
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Juice of 1 key lime
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Mahi Mahi fillets (about 6 ounces each)
1. Combine Ccile oil, Old Bay seasoning, lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Pour over fillets and coat evenly. Marinate for 1 hour.
2. remove fish from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat skillet to medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook for 4 minutes per side or until fish is flaky. Remove from heat and serve right away. Garnish with fresh salsa or guacamole. Serve with chips or corn tostadas. Yields 2 servings.
Do you boil the dried chilis before frying in oil?
No Nik, the chiles are fried as is. Do not boil them first. Make sure you take any stems off if there are any. They will fry fast, so stir them often.