Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Green Chili Salsa

Since moving west, life has gotten a bit more spicy. My first year here, my officemate Alicia had a bunch of folks over for a party. She had made some salsa and had it out for all to try. I walked in and she told me not to try any, but watch other people’s reactions. (She was well aware of my sensitive digestive tract!) She’s from New Mexico and the reactions she got from the salsa were a combination of eye watering and begging for beer.

I’ve been in CO for six years now and have been slowly been building up my tolerance from mild to medium to actually enjoying the flavor of spicy foods and putting up with some burn in my food every now and then. I definitely have my limit, though.

About a year ago, Dave introduced me to an awesome local Mexican market in Boulder. They have a huge selection of cheap produce. Last week Dave was on a hunt for some new bike wheels, so I walked to the market and grabbed ingredients for Green Chili Salsa and made it later that same day while I finished a baby quilt for my cousin Katie. The aromas from this recipe are amazing (and, depending on how many jalapenos you include, could clear out your sinuses and cause some eye watering).

Lessons in peppers for the “mild” readers: The peppers at the top of this picture are California peppers (same as Anaheims). They are very mild, but have annoying peelings, so don’t go subbing these for bell peppers ‘cause you’ll be chewing on them . They have to be roasted for their peelings to be removed. The dark green big guys are poblanos and these have the same peeling deal. They taste great roasted, but can be bitter if not cooked all the way. (I often stuff these with refried black beans and pepper jack and roast for an hour, then serve with sour cream. ) In fact, I only used one of these in the salsa and ate the other two for another meal. The middle pepper is the jalapeno, and folks, don’t touch this thing. I’ll share another jalapeno recipe with you soon that involved cleaning raw jalapenos and my hands burned and swelled for two days. Just use your fork and knife wisely or invest in some rubber gloves. It’s really the seeds and membrane that is the spiciest. If you like it hot, add more of these to your batch.

These are tomatillos. These are like green tomatoes, but they aren’t. You’ll find them in the store with a cover on them that you’ll remove. They are mild. They aren't usually this big, either.

Okay, wash everything really well (I doubt the Mexican market is importing anything organic) and throw them in oven-safe pans that will catch the juices should things split open. Throw some garlic in one of the pans. Roast at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes or turn up the heat for faster results. When they are done roasting, you’ll know because the peelings will seem separated from the pepper. Take these out and let them cool so you can touch them.

While you’re waiting for them to cool, finely chop up a white onion and start sauteing it in olive oil in a pot. (Olive oil and garlic can't be very Mexican, but it's healthy, right?) While that’s going, start cleaning the tomatillos by just removing that hard stem area. Throw the tomatillos into a blender along with the garlic cloves and any juices that are in that pan. Blend! Just do a few pulses, then add half of it to your onions. Now it’s time to clean your peppers. Go mild to spicy on this to limit your contact with the spicy peppers. Cut off the pepper tops, cut out the membrane and seeds. Throw the peppers into the blender and pulse a few more times. (You’re more than welcome to finely chop the peppers rather than blend.)

Add everything to your pot. Add salt (I did Kosher) to taste. Let it simmer until you can’t wait any longer (minimum 10 minutes).

Treat this as a salsa, not a soup. Serve over shredded pork in corn tortillas, serve with chips, or serve on a burger. This couples well with pepper jack cheese on a burger! Enjoy!

I'll spare you from the picture of the salsa itself. Let's just say it didn't photograph well and it is just one of those pictures that belongs on a menu at a Chinese food restaurant.

Grocery list for Green Chili Salsa:
5 California peppers (Anaheims)
1 poblano pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
5+ tomatillos
3 cloves garlic
1 white onion
olive oil

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