I love pureed versions of salsa roja—they’re great for dispensing from squeeze bottles onto everything. So I opted to blend the tomatoes, chile, onion, and garlic with some salt until smooth. The sauce was good, but it lacked the brightness and depth of the finest examples I’ve had. A handful of cilantro helped, but not enough. A dried ancho chile would be just the thing to add a bit of raisin-y backbone. Dried chiles are usually softened in water before being blended, but waiting around for that wasn’t ideal. Then it occurred to me: Maybe I could hydrate the ancho and add brightness in a single step.
I tore the ancho into 1/2-inch pieces, which I put directly into the blender and ground to tiny specks. Then I added one of the raw tomatoes and pureed the mixture. I let the mixture sit while I broiled the rest of the ingredients. The fresh tomato pulp hydrated the ancho and added brightness to the sauce.
I still thought the sauce could use more depth, so I decided to add some minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce. The chipotle added a little more heat along with a welcome hint of smoke.
Now that I have a top-notch salsa roja, I’ll keep a perpetual supply in my refrigerator so I can put it on everything.