20 dried New Mexico red chiles
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
1. Wash chiles and remove stems, seeds, and veins (see Handling Chiles). Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add chiles, cover, and remove from heat. Soak until soft, about 1 hour, then drain, reserving soaking water.
2. Place chiles, garlic, onions, and 2 cups soaking water in a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth. Thin with more soaking water if sauce is too thick.
3. Strain sauce into a large saucepan. Add cumin, season to taste with salt, and simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes. If sauce tastes bitter, add sugar.