Epic Mexican cooking tip coming your way...
The liquid used to soak dried chiles can be used in a wide range of Mexican recipes -- but only if it tastes good to you!
After the chiles have re-hydrated in water for 20-30 minutes, take a taste of the soaking liquid.
What's your first impression? Pleasant or unpleasant?
Half the world will like the rustic, earthy flavor. The other half, including me, thinks it tastes bitter and is unpleasant.
If you're in the bitter camp it's best to NOT use this soaking liquid in your sauces and soups as it will lend a bitter undercurrent in the final flavor of your dish.
I made so many duds before figuring this out, so I hope this tip saves you some time!
But don't worry, you're not losing anything by omitting the soaking liquid, you're just crafting the flavor to suit your palate. You'll still get all the benefits of the dried chiles.
So what should you use in place of the soaking liquid? I typically use stock.
For example, when making Homemade Enchilada Sauce you'll need about 8 cups of liquid to combine the chiles into some real deal enchilada sauce.
I use 8 cups of stock to make this enchilada sauce. You'll still get the awesome flavor benefits of the dried chiles, but there won't be a bitter undercurrent in the final enchi sauce.
Conversely, if you like the flavor of the chiles' soaking liquid you are welcome to use it to make this enchilada sauce.
You'll also see me use stock to make the awesome Birria sauce in the Beef Birria recipe.
That's 2 cups of stock in the slow cooker to help liquefy the Birria sauce. If you are in the "pleasant" camp and like the flavor of the chiles' soaking liquid then you can use it in place of the stock in this recipe.
Another frequent use for the chiles' soaking liquid in Mexican cuisine is Pozole Rojo. But I use stock to create the chile puree and as the base for the Pozole.
And last I want to mention....
Neither method is better than the other!
You're not losing anything by omitting the chiles' soaking liquid. You'll still be able to create incredibly flavorful dishes. It's just a refinement for your palate and it will save you lots of frustrating outcomes in the kitchen.
Okay please let me know if you have any questions about this, I hope this tip saves you some time!
Here are some more tips if you are just starting to work dried chiles in your kitchen: