Traditionally, in Anglican churches, pancake dinners are served on Shrove Tuesday (the last day of Mardi Gras) before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. St. Francis church made Mexican pancakes and had an enchilada dinner. So, this time of year, I always think about making enchiladas before Lent begins. I have people who work with me who have grown up in El Paso and take for granted that everybody knows how to make the red sauce to flavor their enchiladas. I have asked lots of questions and finally have a recipe. This is probably not written down in traditional Mexican homes, where you learn by watching your mother or grandmother make it. I started with the basics to find the definition of molido. Molido means ground or pulverized in Spanish. Thus, ground red chilis = molido.
In September, you can drive through the Rio Grande valley here in El Paso and suddenly see a bright red roof. You look closer and what you see is long red chilis placed on a tin roof drying in the sun. That fascinated me when I first saw these. I would suggest to my husband we take a ride on Sundays in the valley just to see the red chilis. It was then that I bought my first ristra. Little did I know you were to use those chilis to make a sauce. I thought they were beautiful and kept evil spirits from your door. I think red is my favorite color and the shades of a ristra are beautiful to look at. Don’t touch your eyes after touching the chilis. Andy, my son, didn’t listen, of course, and learned that one the hard way.
This molido sauce is used to flavor all sorts of Tex-Mex dishes from tamales, chili con carne, and beans, to enchiladas. I think enchiladas are my favorite — rolled or stacked. Just the combination of the corn tortilla, onions, cheese and red sauce are a taste sensation like no other flavor combination. It is probably purely Tex-Mex food and certainly not healthful. But, making the sauce yourself is a true labor of love. Mexican mamas in El Paso make their own tortillas too — not me. That goes beyond my limitations! I’m a gringa.
Georganne, a dear friend and excellent cook, finally took the time to write down how she makes her red molido sauce, and I am going to share it with you just like she gave it to me. I will treasure this one forever. Here’s what she says.
“My molido sauce is easy. I wash the dust off the dried chilis and put them in a big pot of water and bring it all to a boil. I don’t tear the tops off or remove the seeds. Once the chilis are “workable,” (and the time varies depending on how many are in the pot), I remove them and pull the tops/stems off and throw them away. At this point, I also get rid of most of the seeds, depending on the heat I want. The seeds puree up right along with the chilis in the blender. I put the chilis in a blender with a bit of the water I have just boiled them in and start pureeing. I like my molida thick, so I just add water until I get it “right.” That’s all I do. It freezes up beautifully and if I don’t freeze it, it refrigerates for about a week before it gets too old. Gary and I tried adding garlic and oregano to the molido, and one time we used beer. But the chili just didn’t cook up as good or with as pretty a color as when we used only the chilis and chili water.
When I make a pot of Chili Colorado, this molido gets added close to the end of cooking time. The spices are already in the pot and after I add the molido and let it cook in for maybe 10 minutes, I re-season to taste.
Chile Colorado, which is a thicker stew-like concoction than chili is made when you process and cook up the chilis, onions and garlic. I love to make the roux with bacon drippings, but oil is healthier! After the sauce gets hot and right, I add pork or beef round. I haven’t made Chili Colorado in a looooong time. This is the “sauce” that most people use to make tamale fillings, too. Dang, I’m hungry now!
Me too. Bring on some flour tortillas and we’ll make some Chili Colorado burritos to have with a margarita or two!”
Thanks, Georganne. But I still want to watch you make your chili someday.
- 3-4 cups molido sauce
- 1 onion, finely diced
- cheddar cheese, grated (or any melty cheese)
- corn tortillas
- vegetable oil
This is an assembly line set up. Grate the cheese, chop the onion and put these into separate bowls along with a small flat plate to fill and roll the enchiladas on.
Put the molido sauce in a wide, shallow skillet and begin to warm it. Don’t boil it. Put oil in a shallow skillet to soften the corn tortillas and keep it on medium. Prepare the baking dish you want to put the enchiladas in by spraying it with non-stick spray.
Don’t answer the phone or step away from the stove:
Dip a tortilla in the oil and let it soften (about 10 seconds). Dip it in the molido sauce to coat both sides using kitchen tongs. (Don’t let it soak.)
Place the tortilla on the plate and fill with onion and lots of cheese down the center. Roll tightly and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Continue until you have used up all the onion and cheese. Place them in rows side-by-side. If you are making a double batch you can stack them on top of each other. Pour the remaining molido over the rolled enchiladas when ready to put in the oven and then add cheese to the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350° until bubbly (about 20 minutes) and heated all the way through. Do not overcook.