Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tacodeli's Doña Sauce Recreated

Tacodeli's Doña sauce has beautiful color, lots of heat,
and was a well-kept secret--until now.
It's called Green Crack by locals for a reason. Smooth, spicy, velvety, with a slow and initially pleasing burn that encourages you to top each bite of soft taco with more and more, until your mouth is on fire and your tongue begs you for milk and mercy. 

My first bite of Doña was atop a Tacodeli Frontera Fundido Portobello mushroom taco--oven roasted portobellos covered with Monterrey Jack cheese and garnished with sautéed poblanos and onion rajas. Too many tablespoons of pure green fire later, I had to have the recipe. Apparently, it's a secret sauce, coveted by many and known by few. Challenge! All I could get out of the server was that, yes, it was vegan--no eggs or cream--just jalapeños, garlic, and olive oil. That's all I needed to know to get started on the recipe.

If you have a cast iron griddle or pan, use it to char the jalapenos and garlic.
You can also use the broiler.

Step one: 

I charred the jalapenos and individual garlic cloves, skins on, on a hot cast-iron griddle. The server hinted it was all blended raw, but I wasn't convinced. I thought the sauce had a depth that only charring could add. I started with 10 very large peppers, about a pound, and a whole head of garlic, separated into cloves, skins left on. The peppers sputtered and spit, and happily burst open their blackened skins; but the garlic needed a little help, so I sprayed the cloves lightly with Pam. That did the trick and they toasted beautifully. The blackened peppers and garlic cloves were placed together on a plate and covered with plastic wrap to cool completely. A little advice on handling the peppers: Be sure and wear gloves when peeling the peppers or wash your hands very well afterwards. I am usually very careful when working with hot peppers-except for that one time when I accidentally rubbed my eye--lesson learned. Ouch! I'll never ever do that again. 

Step two: 

Once cooled, I removed the blackened skin and inside ribs and most of the seeds of the peppers, skinned the garlic cloves, and put it all in the blender. I pulsed until pureed, added the oil in a slow stream, and then the salt, tasting after half a teaspoon to make sure I didn't over salt--rarely a problem on my end. With each pulse, I waited for that beautiful, creamy texture and soft green color. Voila--my first batch of Doña sauce. From the first taste on a crunchy homemade tortilla chip, I knew I had nailed the recipe. The spicy concoction disappeared quickly and got a thumbs up, make more, from all the hot sauce lovers in the house. 

Doña now translates to the mean, green, extremely addictive and spicy burning good with everything sauce. 

Make your own chips--fry quartered corn tortillas in canola oil until crisp.
rain well, salt and serve.
Tacodeli Doña Sauce 
recreated in my kitchen-updated 2015*
makes about 2 cups
Printable Recipe 

10 whole very large fresh jalapeños, about 1 pound
1 large whole head of garlic, separated into cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 canola oil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Char jalapeños and garlic in cast iron griddle or under broiler. Remove garlic when softened and slightly charred. Remove skins and set aside. When jalapeños are blackened on all sides, remove to a plate with garlic cloves, cover with plastic wrap and let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove skins, most of the seeds unless you want it really spicy, and the inside ribs from peppers. The real heat is in the seeds and ribs.

Place peppers and garlic in blender. Pulse until blended. Add oil and puree until completely smooth. Blend in salt and adjust seasoning to taste. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Recipe can be doubled. 

Serve with tortilla chips, fresh vegetables, or seafood. Excellent as topping for hamburgers, steak, enchiladas, and fish. Puree with an avocado, cilantro, and lime juice, to make a creamy avocado sauce or dip.

Enjoy, and if you find out who, what, or where Doña is or was--please let me know.

*Updated info on this recipe from a former employee suggests that the jalapeños are simply boiled instead of charred, and the garlic cloves are used raw. A combination of equal parts of canola/olive oil is used. I personally prefer the flavor from the roasted garlic and peppers, but if you want to be totally original, give their version a try. Let me know which you prefer. So far, the consensus is to char the peppers and garlic. 

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  1. I'm planning a kitchen day today with this at the top of my list. Only worry that I'll kill myself charring the peppers, not having the same exhaust system you have! Come on by for lunch if you want some vegelox...I'm contemplating another batch since I just made carrot juice.
    Great post too! And good thing you didn't name names...I'd sure miss "cute pony-tailed boy". :-)

  2. This is beautiful. Dona is one of my favorite things in Austin. I've made it at home a couple of times, but I still have to tweak my recipe a bit.

  3. A little about Dona -

  4. Thank you Bertha for creating one of Austin's favorite spicy sauces! And thanks "anonymous" for posting.

  5. Update on Dona sauce--appears that TD might boil the jalapeños instead of charring, not peel the peppers, and use. 50-50% blend of olive oil and canola oil ---hmm --will need to confirm and retest :)

    1. They also supposedly use raw garlic. Need to do a comparison test-mine was pretty awesome!


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