Ancho Chile Relish

The doyenne of Mexican regional cooking, Dame Diana Kennedy, calls this relish Salsa de Tia Georgina, or Aunt Georgina's Sauce. It's an eccentric take on table condiments and while suggested primarily for use with grilled or broiled meats, Cafe Drake HRV enjoys it equally with pinto beans and cornbread, scrambled eggs and warm tortillas, sometimes even strewn over buttery salad lettuces.

The original recipe calls for 8 ancho chilies but we had 3 enormous ones and altered the measurements accordingly. You'll need either 3 gigantic ancho chilies or 5 smaller ones. Toast the chilies lightly in an iron skillet over a medium flame; in a pinch, a non-stick skillet will suffice. Turn the chilies frequently so they don't burn, pressing down on them as they soften. This takes about 5 minutes. We've added another step which is to then remove the pan from the stove and add 1 cup or so of water. Cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the chilies to soften further. When cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds from chilies.

Cut each chile into longish thin strips with a pair of scissors and add to a small mixing bowl. Add: 1/2 onion (minced), 2-3 cloves garlic (minced), 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar (both work well) and at least 1/4 t. salt. Stir everything together and let rest for 2 hours before serving.

Traditionally crumbled white cheese is added moments before eating but it's still superb without. If you want it, use a couple of tablespoons of queso fresco

Carefully roasting ancho chilies in a dry cast iron skillet enhances their smokey, complex flavors.

A quick soak softens the chilies further.

The chilies have softened and darkened slightly as above, after soaking and draining.

Seeding the chilies is a messy but necessary step. Best to do it over the sink!

Ancho Chile Relish
Of course Cafe Drake HRV loves cerveza with Mexican food but this one went into our pinto beans.

Frijoles borrachos are Monterrey's unique twist on simmered pinto beans, though now cooking the legumes with beer is popular throughout Mexico and the American Southwest. If you're in a hurry or forgot to leave beans to soak overnight, try this acceptable solution: rinse well and then drain 1 can of pinto beans. Set aside while you saute 1 small onion (chopped, sliced, whatever) in 2 T. oil. If you're feeling brave try it the authentic way and sub bacon fat for the oil. Add to the onions 2 cloves of minced garlic and a couple of serrano chilies, chopped. Just use 1 jalapeno if that's all you have. When the onion is soft but not browned, add the beans along with 1 large, chopped tomato. Cook for a few minutes until the liquid from the tomato has been absorbed then add the drained beans and 1/2 bottle of beer - we prefer dark, your choice entirely. Bring to a low boil then reduce heat to low and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Do not cover the pan. A few minutes before the beans are ready, season to taste with salt and black pepper and simmer a bit longer. Garnish with chopped radishes and/or minced cilantro.

above two photos: ancho chile relish with warm corn tortillas, queso fresco, roasted chicken thighs, salsa cruda, beer-braised pinto beans and radishes

Slightly longer cooking times and high temperatures help ensure a crispy, deep golden skin on roasted chicken. Bone-in chicken thighs are Cafe Drake HRV's preferred piece of poultry, being almost impossible to dry out.


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