Ancho chilies are dried, ripened poblano chilies, the ones that are closest in shape to a bell pepper, and a purple-green color. They are mild, with a full and complex range of flavors, allowing you to enjoy the taste of chili without the pain that a lot of them bring on.
This puree has an almost infinite range of possibilities as a base for flavoring sauces. Add it to sour cream, sour cream and mayonnaise, butter sauces, vinaigrettes, compound butters, the hollandaise family, fish veloutés—well, the list is almost endless. I have even sneaked a teaspoon of this puree into lime juice to pour over mangoes, white peaches, and the new variety of perfumed white nectarines.
Put the chilies in a bowl and add enough warm water to barely cover. Weight them down with a plate to submerge, and let sit overnight.
Take the chilies out of the water, saving the water. Remove and discard the stems and the seeds.
Put the cleaned chilies in a food processor with all the other ingredients except the oil. Use a little of the soaking water if necessary to allow the ingredients to move freely around the processor bowl. Puree until very smooth.
Push the puree through a fine sieve into a bowl. Mix the debris in the sieve with the reserved soaking water. Strain and save the water.
Whisk the oil into the puree and add salt to taste. Transfer the puree to a sealed jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Use the chili water in sauces and soups—it can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for later use.
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