Eat + Drink: The state of colorado

By Dave Faries, Editor
Posted 9/13/21

Line cooks at Tacos & Tequila in Mexico say the sauce for their chile colorado is a simple thing, a few basic pantry trappings tossed together.

Few traditional south of the border staples come …

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Eat + Drink: The state of colorado

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Line cooks at Tacos & Tequila in Mexico say the sauce for their chile colorado is a simple thing, a few basic pantry trappings tossed together.

Few traditional south of the border staples come as easily as they claim, however. The vivid sauce, after all, is not intended as a complement to seared beef.

No, the chile colorado sauce dominates the dish. It comes at you relentlessly – not lunging or charging, but at march. It's like an ancient phalanx with spear points arrayed.

The stew, in other words, is spicy. Yet the analogies of heat in this case can be carried too far. The chile combination is fierce enough to assert itself, but not keen to overpower everything in its path.

A pleasant citrus note chimes in, balanced by an earthiness traced with smoke. Impressions of dried fruit drift with the spicy heat, as does an herbaceous bite.

Somehow this is all tethered to the chile. The sauce reveals itself all at once rather than in torrid layers.

Kitchen staff admit to guajillo and ancho chiles, although it's possible chile de arbol plays a role. Their presence is constant on the palate. Yet the meat shows through with a rugged character – husky, with an acrid bite from the grill that picks up on the puff of smoke from the dried chile.

Chile Colorado can properly be served as a main course, as at Tacos & Tequila. It can also play a part in burritos or other dishes. The recipe is versatile.

And the sauce is memorable. Beyond the chiles it involves garlic, onion, salt and pepper, perhaps some cumin. There are herbs and other spices, along with a stock for a starter.

Easy? Simple? That’s unlikely.

Chile colorado can be a confusing dish. The name is derived from the bright color of the sauce. Colorado translates as “colored red.” 

So there is no association with the state of Colorado. But there is more to untangle.

The recipe traditionally calls for New Mexico chile – not Hatch, but a dried red variety. The designation comes from a time when New Mexico was a part of Mexico’s northern state of Chihuahua.

In other words, colorado has nothing to do with the state. New Mexico has just a bit to do with the state. In simple terms, chile colorado is wonderful Mexican comfort fare.

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