This week is off to a refreshingly slow start, thanks to a day off for the Boston Marathon on Monday–apparently that’s kind of a big deal–and an inexplicably short shift at work today. This has given me a rare chance to consider ways I’d like to spend my spare time, other than sleeping. I’ve decided that I want to institute office hours, like professors have. Never mind that none of my jobs at the moment require any kind of desk time whatsoever, except for blogging. (It doesn’t have to be profitable to be my job, right? I can put this on my résumé?) It would just be so nice to have a few set hours every week to sit down and take care of things that I normally can’t, like monitor my bank account from something other than my phone, put some serious effort into job hunting, and follow the news like I used to do at my desk job.
But who am I kidding? I’d probably just spend my office hours surfing other people’s blogs and wasting time on Pinterest and Art of the Menu. Honestly? Even now, as I was typing that last sentence, I decided to fetch the URLs for those links and ended up going off on a 20-minute web surfing tangent. Forget it. I’ll just stick with cooking; it’s a far more productive use of time.
This is a recipe that has been with me since my very early days of cooking in my parents’ kitchen. But only in the last several months, after acquiring my very handy food chopper, have I really started making it in regularly. A word of assurance for those who don’t like spicy food: never fear, because guajillo chiles are not hot at all. And for those who do prefer a little fire in their food, red pepper flakes will solve that for you. Everyone’s happy.
The key ingredient in this sauce is, of course, the guajillos. I bought them for the first time at a small tienda in my hometown, where the employees were very amused by my feeble attempt at speaking Spanish. These days, I think guajillos are easier to find (I’m pretty sure I even spotted them at WalMart once), especially if you live in an area with a Whole Foods or Fresh Market. Or you could just visit a tienda yourself. As I’ve mentioned before, visiting ethnic markets is a fun and rewarding cultural experience.
You’re also going to need a ton of garlic. I have to confess, once again, that I cheat on my do-it-yourself, make-it-from-scratch standards here, and I use bottled minced garlic. Would this dish taste better if I peeled and minced a couple heads of garlic by hand? Probably. Would I be in a good mood afterward? Doubtful.
The first thing you’ll want to do is fry your guajillos in hot oil. Frying things is dangerous enough without getting a camera involved, so there are no photos of this step. Just put your oil in a medium-sized saucepan, and let it heat over a medium flame. If you have a candy thermometer, you’ll want the oil to reach 350 degrees; if you don’t have one, I’ve found that a good trick is to let the oil heat, then drop in a grain of uncooked rice. If it immediately bubbles to the top, your oil is ready to fry. Using metal tongs, lower a guajillo into the oil, and let it fry for about five seconds. You may have to flip it over once if it isn’t completely submerged in the oil. Repeat the process with two or three more guajillos. The chiles will unfold and inflate in the hot oil; wear an apron and stand back so you don’t get spattered.
Remove the oil from the heat and allow it to cool down a little bit. This would be a great time to juice a couple of limes, since the chilies need to drain for a minute, too.
When the chilies are cool enough to handle, cut off the stems and then cut the remaining portions into small pieces. You can decide whether to leave the seeds in or not. Again, these truly are not hot peppers, so keeping the seeds in won’t make your sauce any spicier.
If you don’t have a chopper or food processor, I’d highly recommend that you get one. (Check the link above! A mini chopper is not expensive!) But a blender might also work, as would a coffee or spice grinder. You’ll want to chop the chilies down into small flakes, like so:
By now, your oil should still be hot, but not scalding. Pour in your (ridiculously large quantity of) minced garlic. Return the saucepan to a medium flame and cook the garlic until it turns golden. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice, chili flakes, and some salt.
And you’re done! Ideally, this sauce needs to sit for several hours so the flavors can marry, but it’s probably pretty delectable fresh out of the pan, too.
This sauce is excellent for dipping crusty bread as an appetizer or snack. But if you’re feeling fancy, cook up some angel hair pasta and pan fry some shrimp, and toss them both together with your fantastically smoky, garlicky chili sauce, and pair with a dry white wine. Instant date night!
Seriously. These are all the “office hours” I need.
Guajillo Garlic Lime Sauce
3/4 cup olive oil
3 whole guajillo chilies
3/4 cup minced garlic
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat to 350°. Using metal tongs, submerge 1 chile into oil, and cook 5 seconds; remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool 5 minutes or until completely cool. Repeat with remaining 2 chiles. Remove and discard stems. Process remaining portion of chiles in food processor 30 seconds to 1 minute or until crumbled into small flakes.
Cook garlic in hot oil in same saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir in chili flakes, lime juice, and salt.