Recipe: Smoky-Spicy Glaze

Bowl of peppers from Thomas Campone Photography (via Flickr).  CC BY-NC 2.0.

When a bowl of beans or a bowl of soup needs some zing, or if I’m making a quesadilla in the middle of winter and don’t have any decent salsa, I open my freezer and reach for a jar labeled “Spicy Toltec BBQ Glaze.” It’s a sweet-spicy-smoky sauce that makes just about anything more interesting. The recipe is from Coyote’s Pantry by Mark Miller and Mark Kiffin (with John Harrisson), a collection of accompaniments and building blocks like salsas, sauces, flavored vinegars, pasta toppings and more. The Coyote in the title refers to Santa Fe’s world-famous Coyote Cafe, one of the restaurants at the forefront of the modern Southwest cooking movement.

Making the glaze isn’t too difficult, but it takes a bit of time and you need to pay attention so it doesn’t scorch during the reduction (to monitor the reduction, try using a kitchen scale).  One part of the recipe seems a little bit silly to me and ripe for tinkering: a large amount of ketchup. Ketchup is basically tomatoes, sugar, salt and vinegar that have been cooked for a long time.  And the recipe already has vinegar and sugar, and is cooked for a long time. So why not replace the ketchup with a can of tomato puree or tomato paste and modify the vinegar, salt and sugar levels?

The book’s authors named this sauce after the Toltecs, a Nahuatl society in Central Mexico that succeeded the Mayans. Their zenith was between the 9th and 11th centuries and they left behind numerous ruins, most prominently Chichen Itza. Explaining the choice of the name Miller and Kiffin write “This sauce is a s ferocious as the Toltecs were themselves…this glaze is not for dainty tea parties.”

The heat in the glaze comes exclusively from the chipotle puree, so if you are a wimp like me, use 1/4 cup or less. If you like the burn, go with 1/2 cup or more. (If you are a super wimp but want smoke flavor, you might try using Lapsong Souchong tea to impart smokiness, as I suggested here.)

It’s great in a bowl of beans or lentils; in a bowl of mushroom-barley soup; on tacos, burritos or quesadillas; spread on grilled cheddar or Monterey jack cheese sandwich; and in numerous other places.

Recipe: Smoky-Spicy Glaze
Adapted from Coyote’s Pantry, by Mark Miller and Mark Kiffin (with John Harrisson)

1 c. (236 mL) unseasoned rice vinegar
1 c. (236 mL) apple cider vinegar
2 T. (30 mL) coriander seeds
1 T. (15 mL) whole cloves
6 whole allspice berries
¼ c. (59 mL) vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. (236 mL) light brown sugar
¼ c. (59 mL) molasses
12 fluid ounces (354 mL) dark beer
1/4 – 1/2 cup (59-118 mL) chipotle chile puree (see note)
20 fluid ounces (591 mL) ketchup

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the vinegars, coriander, cloves, and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil gently until liquid is reduced by half. Strain and set aside the liquid; discard the whole spices.

Choose a non-reactive saucepan that will be large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Set it over medium heat. Add the oil and cook the onion until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic, stir and cook for about 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, and cook, stirring until the sugar is melted (about 1 minute). Add the molasses and stir. Add the beer to deglaze.

Add the reserved spiced vinegar and chipotle puree to the pan and simmer over low heat for about 1 hour. Stir in the ketchup and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain, being sure to press to extract the maximum liquid amount from the mixture.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer (for longer storage).

Note: to make chipotle chile puree, buy a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, open it, and put the contents in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. For long term storage, wrap and freeze. The puree stays soft enough in the freezer so that you can easily slice off what you need. If you also keep tomato paste in the freezer, be sure to label the chipotle puree so you don’t mix up tomato paste and chile puree.

Photo credits:  Photo of peppers in bowl from Tom Campone’s Flickr collection, subject to a Creative Commons License (see also Thomas Campone Photography). Photo of Toltec eagle relief, 10th-13th century, from Metropolitan Museum of Art, via

 Random link from the archive: Temple Guardians in Thailand (my fourth post)

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