Update: A revised recipe is available here. There is nothing at all wrong with this recipe, but the updated version is simpler to make.
The ubiquitous to-go hot sauce container above will be immediately familiar to anyone who lives in an area where taco shops ply their trade. Every place has their own sauce, and while they share a lot in common, each version is a little bit different. This one, however, is not from just any taco shop - it is our own house hot sauce.
If you've been following our blog since 2007 (which you haven't, because nobody was following our blog in 2007...), you may know that we've made hot sauce in the past. But that wasn't taco shop hot sauce - it was more of a Louisiana-style pepper sauce (think Tabasco). Taco shop hot sauce is a different animal entirely. Less vinegar flavor, more chile depth.
In coming up with a hot sauce recipe, I had a few goals in mind:
- Keep it pretty easy to make. Because I'm lazy.
- Get bold, but clean flavors - deep, but not overcomplicated.
- Make it plenty hot, but not so hot that you can't slather on a bunch without completely burning your face off.
Here is what I do. I take some tomatoes and cloves of garlic (with the skin still on) and toss them into a medium-hot frying pan:
You could probably do this with a pan in the oven, but I'm a stove-top guy. I like to see what's going on and poke and prod. I move things around every so often so they don't just cook on one side.
Once they are nicely charred and getting soft, I take them out to cool (the garlic usually is done earlier than the tomatoes). Let them cool enough to be able to peel them with your fingers without burning yourself. The garlic should pretty much pop out of its skin and the tomato skin should come off easily (and don't worry about getting every last bit off).
Then it is into a blender with some red wine vinegar, Mexican oregano, salt and enough water to loosen it up a bit.
Despite the posed picture at the top of this post, we put our hot sauce into a squeeze bottle for easy delivery. And deliver it we definitely do - we've been going through a ton of the stuff. Particularly at breakfast...
In addition to being great on a breakfast quesadilla, or in a taco, it also works well in other situations. We use it as a base for a killer ranchero sauce (and have also been known to just use it straight-up for that purpose), a little bit of it makes an awesome guacamole even awesomer, and it adds a perfect final touch to a ceviche.
When making hot sauce I've mostly been winging it with the exact quantities (and I encourage you to do the same). I did pay attention the last few times I whipped up a batch, though, so the following recipe is pretty representative of what I do on average.
1 pound tomatoes
4 garlic cloves (skin on)
2 tablespoons chile de arbol paste
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup water
2 pinches Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Put the tomatoes and garlic in a medium-hot frying pan and cook them for 15 to 20 minutes - until they get soft and are charred on the outside.
After cooling for a few minutes until you can safely handle them, peel the skin off of both the tomato and garlic. Remove any hard center bits from the tomatoes.
Add the tomato and garlic to a blender with the chile paste and vinegar and blend until very smooth.
Add water gradually to reach the consistency you want. The amount of water will very greatly depending on how juicy your tomatoes are.
Add oregano and salt to taste.