This article was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005.

Ancho pepper Picante


4 dried ancho peppers
1/2 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 of a lime
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Rinse and dry the peppers if you're finicky, although I figure I'm going to be boiling off the germs anyway, and I worry about washing off some of the deicious oil that carries the flavor. Cut or tear them into small pieces (roughly 1 inch square, but precision is not important), discarding the seeds and the white inner membranes. (If you're truly macho or masochistic, you can leave these bits in, but in my opinion they contribute only one-dimensional heat without complexity or character. So sayeth I.)

2. Peel and coarsely chop the onion and the garlic and put them in a small saucepan with the pieces of dried pepper. Add the juice of the 1/2 lime and the salt, with just enough water to cover.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very low simmer, and cook for 30 minutes or so until the peppers are soft, adding a little more water from time to time if it dries out too much.

4. Using a standup or stick blender, blend the cooked ingredients into a smooth puree, and use in your recipe as instructed. You can usually substitute it directly in recipes calling for chile pepper, using a similar amount, but taste as you go and add more sauce as you like.

This thick sauce can be used immediately or stored for a week or two in the refrigerator. It seems to last almost indefinitely in the freezer.

Repeating last week's counsel for Creole-style pork chops, I often gravitate to beer, not wine, for hot-and-spicy fare. If it's wine you want, though, consider a sparkler or a good-quality off-dry white like a Riesling or Chenin Blanc.

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