NOB HILL--Nothing has more potential than a brand new ristra. And nothing has more of a story to tell than a ristra with its top half picked clean. Yet few of these beautiful but tasty icons of New Mexico make it to the kitchen. This is the season for holiday tamales and huge pots of posole. You’re going to need lots of red chile! It’s time to pluck that string of dried peppers.
How to make red chile.
Pick 15 to 20 peppers
from the top of your ristra. Take them inside and wash them, discarding stems, loose seeds, and discolored areas of the pods.
There are a few cautions here. The most important one is to not touch any sensitive areas of your body after handling chile. The most common mistake is to rub one’s eyes, but all sensitive body parts are at risk. Some people wear latex gloves. Others coat their hands with cooking oil first. I don’t do either, but experience has taught me to pay attention! Also, watch out for spiders and be easy with the hot water. Hot water releases the pungent capsaicinoids (otherwise known as the stuff in chile that makes you cough and sneeze). So wash the chiles in cold water...or open a window.
Put the clean pods
in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let it boil for a couple of minutes, then turn off the burner. Place something in the pan to keep the pods underwater. I use a smaller lid. Cover the pan and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. If possible, use the stove vent when bringing the chiles to a boil.
By now the chiles have reconstituted themselves and are real meaty. Put them in a blender so that the blender is about half full. Add a garlic clove, about half a teaspoon of salt, and maybe some cumin. Also add water to the blender bringing it approximately to the same level as the chile pods.
There is a bit of controversy here. Some reuse the heated water. Others insist on clean water. I usually add new water unless the sink is busy. In that case I use the old chile-heating red colored water next to me.
Blend the chiles
for twice as long as you think you need to. Maybe three times as long. This not only makes for smoother red chile, it gives the gears in your blender a little exercise. Add more water if you think you need it; it won’t hurt anything and your blender will thank you.
into a sauce pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Adjust your seasonings.
Now you’re ready for the holidays. And remember...posole invitations are always appreciated.