Step 1: If using frozen chiles, let thaw at room temperature. If using dried chiles, soak in water to cover for 2 hours, then drain.
Step 2: Stem the chiles and if a milder sauce is desired, remove the seeds. Place the chiles, peanut butter, cheese, and water in a blender and puree until smooth. Blend in the huacatay, running the blender in short bursts.
Step 3: Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the chile-peanut butter puree and cook, stirring often, until thick, creamy, and richly flavored, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed–the sauce should gently simmer, not boil.
Step 4: Add 1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste, and salt: the mixture should be highly seasoned and spicy hot. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: If you can’t find aji Amarillo, substitute 1 grilled, peeled, cored, seeded, and diced yellow bell pepper, plus ½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
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Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2017 Barbacoa, Inc.