Friday, August 5, 2011

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Salsa de Chile de Arbol

The weekend is nearly on us. Given the current heat wave and our local drinking habits, that means beers, margaritas, chips, and salsa. Anything that keeps the kitchen from getting needlessly hot.

We're loaded up on fresh limes, Cointreau, Combier, and Grand Marnier, so the margaritas are under control. Beers are cooling and chips acquired. I just tossed a double handful of green tomatillos on the grill and made a batch of green salsa with tomatillos and dried chiles de arbol, those pencil-thin, long red chiles so common once you know to look for them.

Tomatillos, also called tomates verdes, resemble hard green tomatoes in husks, but the resemblance ends there. Though the tart little fruits can be used raw, I like them best cooked and have been known to give them a quick boil or to char them a bit on the grill. I'm particularly fond of the tomatillo/chipotle combination and have made quick stews of little more than chicken, squash, roasted tomatillos, lime, salt, chicken stock, and smoked peppers.

The idea for this salsa came from Patricia van Rhijn's La cocina del chile. This isn't as smoky as chipotle versions, but packs a pleasant heat. If you don't like tart tastes, you won't dig this, but if you do — tuck in. Want a stronger garlic kick? Don't roast it with the other ingredients. Make sure everyone eats some, though; you don't want to be the only one with superhuman garlic breath.

My interpretation and quantity tweaks are below. Her original follows that in case you'd like to double check my imperfect Spanish.
Salsa de chile de arbol

8 dried chiles de arbol
8 tomatillos
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp (cider or pineapple) vinegar
Dash of salt 
Clean and wash the tomatillos. Grill them with the chiles and garlic.

Once the ingredients are roasted, remove and discard the hard core of the tomatillos, grind everything in a blender with vinegar and add salt to taste. I like to leave discernible chunks of garlic and chile in mine.

And here's van Rhijn's original directions:

Salsa de chile de arbol

Ingredientes (para 1 taza)

6 chiles de arbol secos
6 tomates verdes
3 dientes de ajo
1 cucharadita de vinagre


Los tomates se limpian y lavan. Se ponen a asar junto con los chiles y los ajos. 

Una vez que los ingredientes esten asados, se muelen con el vinagre y se agrega sal al gusto.

Patricia van Rhijn (2003)
La cocina del chile
Introduction by Laura Esquivel, photos by Ignacio Urguiza
Editorial Planeta Mexicana
Hardback (191 pages)
ISBN 9706908684

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