Mussels in Red Chile Broth

I first made this dish years ago.  It was the first recipe that really exposed me to dried chiles.  Oh, I’ve certainly eaten many, many sauces utilizing dried, rehydrated chiles over the years.  They are a staple in Texas cuisine, especially in restaurants.  I just never thought about how enchilada sauces and chilis were made, so I was never terribly aware of dried chiles and how to use them.  At first, I found them intimidating.  I heard or read the term “rehydrating chiles” and I had no clue what that really even meant.  This was the first dish I ever made that required rehydrated chiles.  The pureed chiles become the broth for the mussels and it’s just insane.  Especially when you dip fries in the broth…  Drooling…  I’m getting ahead of myself!  Back to the chiles.

The first time I made this dish, I didn’t properly rehydrate the chiles, which is a nice way of saying that parts of them were still dried and couldn’t be pureed, try though I may have.  I eventually had to strain the puree to remove the dried chile chunks, and it made a huge mess.  Since that time, I’ve become quite adept at rehydrating chiles, so I wanted to have a redo on this recipe.  It was every bit as delicious as I remember, and maybe even more so, because this time I didn’t find it daunting and it caused significantly less kitchen chaos.
So here is how you rehydrate a dried chile.  It’s actually very easy, and I’ve found a foolproof method, thanks to some research, trial, and error.  Every recipe will give a different technique.  Ignore them all and just do as follows:

* Rip off the stems and shake the seeds out.  In most cases you’ll be pureeing them, so it’s usually fine if you tear them.

* Take a stockpot just large enough to hold all the chiles. Place the chiles in the pot and fill it with water, enough to submerge the chiles. The chiles will float, though.

* Place the pot over high heat and let it come up to a boil. Once it’s boiling, shut off the heat and cover the pot.

* Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. That’s it! They’ll be rehydrated.

Source: slightly adapted from The Mesa Grill Cookbook, by Bobby Flay

2 ancho chiles
2 New Mexico red chiles
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 cups dry white wine
2 pounds cultivated mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
2 tsp honey

Rehydrate chiles as instructed above. Reserve the liquid. Place the chiles in the blender along with 1/4 cup soaking liquid, 1/4 cup cilantro, the garlic, and pine nuts. Puree until smooth.
With the motor running, slowly add the oil and process until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bring the wine to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the mussels and cover. Steam until they are all opened, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Transfer the mussels to a large serving bowl with a slotted spoon.
Return the cooking liquid to a boil and let reduce by half, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the red chile puree and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the 2 tbs cilantro. Pour the mixture over the mussels and serve immediately.

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