At this spring’s New York City Hot Sauce Expo, John Hard (aka CaJohn) came up to me and said, Ken, I have a new sauce I want you to try. I think you’re gonna like it! Well, I don’t know if there’s been a creation from CaJohn’s Flavor & Fire that I didn’t like, so it was a safe bet. But I didn’t expect to be enchanted!!!!
Okay, so I’m making a little play on words here. If you’ve looked at the picture, you know I’m referring to Enchantment, a mole’ style sauce and one of CaJohn’s most recent culinary creations! I’ve had this sauce since the week after the show (thanks to Sue Hard, who graciously boxed up and shipped my hot sauce booty for me, since it’s kind of hard to take 40 bottles of sauce and products through as a carry on!) and it has become one of my go to sauces for anything Mexican or Latin, or anything I want to highlight with the flavor or Old Mexico!
If you know CaJohn and Sue, you know they love New Mexico, and they pay homage to their affection in the label write up of the sauce. They reference their enchantment with the state (get it? Nice word play, CaJohn!) and wanted a sauce that created a fusion of North American Indian, Spanish Mission, Mayan, and Chuck Wagon styles in the tradition of the old Mexico Mole Poblano sauce made famous in the mountain city of Puebla, Mexico (there’s some controversy about the origin of mole sauce, but I’ve been to Puebla, and those folks are pretty darn convincing!). A traditional mole sauce has a pile of stuff in it, from various roasted nuts, to dried bread and fruit, and a finishing of dark chocolate, and cooks for hours and hours. This sauce celebrates that richness, but uses a different flavor and ingredient profile.
Enchantment uses several different peppers: New Mexican chile, Ancho, Guajillo, Chile de Arbol, and Pequin. Add in distilled and cider vinegar, garlic, agave nectar, cumin, salt and oregano, and you have a dark, rich, complex sauce that masterfully layers its flavors and it’s oh so subtle heat. This is not a hot sauce to me. It is a finishing sauce for meat, or a base to slow cook and simmer pork, chicken, or beef. And it took my Spanish omelet to a whole new level! If I have any suggestions for CaJohn based on my using it these past few months, is that my batch is really thick and doesn’t always want to easily pour out of its flask style bottle. But that is a small issue, and after all, a mole is supposed to be thick. Another thing I learned while playing with it is that it doesn’t always play well with others, and mixing it with other powders, spices, rubs, etc. could alter the flavor profile enough to mess things up. So for those that like to use multiple sauces, powders, rubs, etc. in your dishes, don’t be surprised if you’re not thrilled with your results. In other words, make your life easy and don’t use anything else- it’s not necessary.
Now I’m sure there are those of you that are much more skilled in the kitchen than yours truly, and can use it with other spices and products, but I appreciated the stupid proofness that Enchantment gave me. And like I said, while it’s not a true mole sauce (CaJohn will be the first to tell you that it’s a mole “inspired” sauce), the deep, earthy tones of the Arbol chile, combined with the mildly acidic guajillo and New Mexican, the sweetness of the ancho (I think they’re sweet, anyway!), and the playful heat of the pequin combine in masterful fashion to provide my taste buds and smell buds (do we even have smell buds? Remind me to look that up!) with a trip to old Mexico!
So Enchantment earns itself a full 4 Fiery Worlds from this author. I enjoyed the cool way it uses so many different peppers so smartly, the simple list of other ingredients that celebrates the flavors without muddying it all up, and the fullness and richness that makes the sauce “mole-like”. Add in a first hand appreciation for John and Sue’s love for New Mexico and I wish I was on a mesa in New Mexico watching a beautiful sunset, chowing down on some slow cooked pork wrapped in a homemade tortilla, smothered in Enchantment! Ahhh….some enchanted evening that would be! And why, Ladies and Gentlemen? Because…….It’s a Fiery World! (Note: At press time, I didn’t see Enchantment listed on Cajohn’s website, so you may need to inquire as to availability)