Tuesday, 24 November 2009

More Adventures in Salsaland

I have three new salsa recipes I tried lately to discuss. First I revisited the Salsa de Tomatillo recipe, this time using grilled tomatilloes instead of poached, second I knocked together a Salsa de Chile Pasilla from Diana Kennedy's book and finally a Salsa De Tomates Asado; a tomato salsa, this time based on grilled tomatoes.

Salsa De Tomatillo Cocida
As I was making the initial version of the tomatillo salsa based on poached tomatilloes I was anxious to try the version of this sauce made with grilled tomatilloes and a charred anaheim chili (the one that looks like a gangly green pepper) which I had seen as the basis of a number of recipes. I imagined it as being similar but with a smokier charred taste. While that is true, there is certainly a more complex taste, I think now, after making it, that the difference comes more from the addition of the anaheim chili than from how the tomatilloes themselves are treated.

I started by halving about a half dozen tomatilloes and putting them onto a hot comal. I think this would be more successful if the tomatillloes could be roasted or grilled, however not having a grill (very odd, it's a nice big gas oven, but no grill), that variant will have to wait until I have more reason to turn on the oven than a half dozen tomatilloes.

I also put a serrano chili on the comal with the tomatilloes and at the same time dropped the anaheim over an gas ring and charred the outside as best as I could.

The tomatilloes got about five minutes each side untill they were softened and they went into the blender with the serrano and the anaheim, which had it's charred skin rubbed off and was seeded and deveined. There was no need add water to the blender as the tomatilloes were soft enough. A handful of corriander, salt and pepper and you are ready to blitz to a rough purée. I then added about a half of a small onion that had been sweated untill translucent and was just starting to catch.

It was more like the salsa with the poached tomatillies than I expected. While there was a slight grilled flavour what was more obviously different was the anaheim, which has a quite acidic taste. Cooking the onion also gives a rounder less insistent taste.

Salsa de Chile Pasilla
I had been looking to move on from the tomato and tomatillo based salsas to the salsas based primarily on chili which are more typical of what I have seen served here in Mexico so far.

My first attempt at this was a Salsa De Chili Passila De Michoacan which I took from The Art of Mexican Cooking. I am a bit hamstrung here by having absolutely no frame of reference to judge success of failure with this salsa, and by having to use techniques that are still not at all intuitive to me, however I think I am going to call this one a miss.

It's a dark brown sludge sitting in the fridge, in a cup, which I fear, when I finally admit total failure and toss the sauce, may never be white again.

The recipe calls for three passila chilis to be lightly toasted in oil for about five minutes until just crisp. The passilas are removed and two tomatilloes are fried in the oil until soft; another five minutes or so. The passila, the tomatilloes, a clove of garlic and 3/4 of a cup of water are blended to a "textured puree".

In the same oil in the pan 1/4 of a small onion is fried until translucent, the purée is reintroduced to the pan, seasoned and reduced until thick.

I think the biggest mistake I made here was to toast the chili to fiercely, allowing it become bitter. There is definitely a bitter, caprylic note to the sauce. I also think I allowed it reduce too much as I can't imagine how the thick paste I ended up with would actually be served.

I've been looking around online and there are another couple of versions of this salsa that look a little more bulletproof than the one I tried, I think I'll have a go at some of them before revisiting this fiasco.

Salsa De Tomates Asado 
After the couple of batches of the Salsa Mexicana I wanted to try a tomato slasa again but this time based on grilled rather then raw tomatoes.

The recipe I used is almost exactly as outlined here.

The tomatoes are charred on the comal along with the chilis, I used cherry tomatoes that were at their very peak and were on the point of turning. I also threw a couple of unpeeled cloves of garlic on the comal to soften along with the tomatoes and serranos.

The grilled tomatoes are blitzed along with the garlic, the flesh and seeds of a seranno (I grilled two but used only one, the second being on hand if needed), some diced onion, plenty of seasoning and some oregano.

This was a big hit. In fact I had a meal planned with spinaich and poached chicked but as soon as this salsa was finished I wolfed half of it with tostadas and finised the rest with the poached chicken and some tortillas. I think I will certainly be making this on a regular basis.

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