Articles / Heat Up Your Weekend With Red Chile Sauce On The Fly

Heat Up Your Weekend With Red Chile Sauce On The Fly

Published July 5, 2019

Four coincidences led me to make a chile paste for the first time in a while a few weekends ago. Really glad about that.

First: I recently attended a benefit for the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, a profoundly important organization that’s part of the Food Chain Workers Alliance (of which I’m on the board). There, the brilliant and talented Neftali Duran and a team of local cooks and chefs produced an insanely good meal of dishes from Mexico and Central and South America, including one of my all-time favorites, cochinita pibil. (Sorry for all the superlatives, but yeh, they’re appropriate.) I don’t think they buried the meat in the ground, but this was a process.

Next, I found – in my freezer, of all places! – a lovely pork shoulder from Glynwood. Third, a few good eaters showed up. And fourth, I had to take my new Ferno grill out for a spin.

I might make cochinita pibil again in this lifetime, but then again I may never have the patience. But what I did do was — if not a close second — a first-rate crowd pleaser.

At night, I made the chile paste (recipe below). It takes five minutes, and is ridiculous in the best sense of the word. I poured it all over the pork to marinate overnight. In the morning — at nine a.m. — I poured off the chile paste and put the meat on the grill, which I kept between 200 and 225 degrees for six hours, turning when I thought of it and basting once or twice. (I have to admit I was sort of hoarding the chile paste at that point, so I didn’t use all of it.)

The meat was so good that two self-described vegetarians ate it. (Hey, self-described; I’m not judging.) The paste (which is more liquid than pasty, really, but I don’t know what else to call it — juice doesn’t seem right, maybe it’s sauce), stirred into rice and beans, will do very nicely if you don’t have a beautiful piece of pork.

Without the chile de arbol, this is not super-fiery, which is how I like it; I recognize that others have more tolerance than I for heat, so do your thing.


I’m tempted to call this “red chile paste,” but it’s a little too liquidy for that. I recently slathered it all over a pork shoulder that I slow-cooked on the grill, but you can also use it to marinate/baste other grilled or roasted meats, make it the base of a braising liquid, or simply stir it into some rice and beans.