Friday, May 14, 2010

Taco Shop Hot Sauce

Taco Shop Hot Sauce

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.
Hot sauce was the main reason I started making the chile de arbol paste I posted about a while back - it provides the backbone for my recipe. If you have a batch of that chile paste on hand (and you should), making my hot sauce is easy.

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:

Taco Shop Hot Sauce

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.

Taco Shop Hot Sauce

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).

Taco Shop Hot Sauce

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...

Taco Shop Hot Sauce

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.

Taco Shop Hot Sauce

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.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Mike! I've been playing around with different types of salsas lately but haven't started in on the hot sauce. This one sounds great and a good place to start, just need to find some chile de arbol paste.

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  2. Hi Carol - I definitely recommend making the chile paste yourself. It is really easy to do, and dried chile de arbol are cheap and easy to get.

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  3. Thanks, Mike, I think I'll do that since I really want to try your chili paste.

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  4. Hi Mike
    This looks fabulous and easy! I am going to try your method with a combination of the chile de arbol and anchos. And this taco sauce as well. You have definitely taken the mystery out of it. Love your blog!

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  5. Hi Mimi - we've made chile paste using anchos and it is good, but definitely different. The anchos give it a more earthy, raisiny character. One of the things we like to use it for is making Pollo Adobado.

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  6. you guys are so awesome...loved these past two posts especially. those are some beautiful pics, and you've inspired me to make my own! in the future, would you please consider putting up a post for a salsa verde recipe? =)

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  7. Thanks, Sawyer! Our go-to salsa verde recipe is a version of a roasted tomatillo salsa from Rick Bayless. We did a post on it a few years ago:

    Huevos Verdes - Eggs with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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  8. I can't wait to try this! I've been looking for a good AND easy hot sauce recipes!

    check out my blog when you get a chance!

    www.iplayinla.com

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  9. I am so glad I found this recipe.
    Now, can you help me out. When I was done blending it came out so frothy. (Maybe I am being impatient). Yours is so much darker in color too.
    I don't know what I can add to make it more taco shop like I remember from living in San Diego. I cannot add anymore paste either, its at maximum temperature for my husband.
    Thank you!

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  10. Hi Amanda - my hot sauce is sometimes a bit frothy right after blending, too, but I usually don't notice it being a problem later.

    As for color/flavor, the biggest factor there is the quality/amount of the chiles. I've found that different sources of chile de arbol have made a big difference. My current favorite is from Rancho Gordo. You could also try blending with a milder dried chile to allow you to have more chile flavor with less heat.

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  11. Thanks Mike,
    I am all the way in Washington so the closest I am going to get is the dried chiles in the "Mexican" aisle. LOL.
    I messed with it this morning (more water, a little more paste) came out much more like I remember.
    Thank you for this recipe!! Also made your Tamatillo Salsa Verde (AH-MAZING!) Can't wait to try it on my Taco Shop Carne Asada Burritos for dinner!!!

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  12. Thanks for the recipe!
    Any idea how long this keeps?
    Don't want to make too much and waste it or too little (also lazy!)

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    Replies
    1. It usually lasts fine for about 2-3 weeks.

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  13. this rules! thanks so much!

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  14. So I made up a batch a couple days ago and it's awesome!! My doesn't look half as good as yours but I'm confident that the fault lays with me. I can't wait to finish consuming batch one so I can make a second batch. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Jared - glad the hot sauce worked out for you! I need to do an updated post, since my current method is even easier (mostly due to broiling the tomatoes and garlic instead of doing them in a frying pan).

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  15. I was able to get a good char on my garlic but the tomatoes flummoxed me. I was considering using a torch or classic french style concasse.

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    1. It works really well under the broiler. I do a cross-shaped score of the top and bottom before roasting to help the skin pull away.

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