Monday, February 9, 2009
We're months away from fresh local tomatoes, cilantro and chiles so here's a winter-friendly salsa that still incorporates some fresh local ingredients. O.K., can you really call the tomatillos "fresh" if they were picked almost 4 months ago? I'm going to.
The humble tomatillo is often under appreciated. They are very easy to grow and you only need to plant them once and they will provide volunteer plants every year. They also have the amazing ability to keep for months. This pile is the last two pounds that I picked at the end of October and stored in a bowl on my kitchen counter ever since. Eighty percent of the two pounds was still in great condition. No refrigeration or processing was necessary and I get to enjoy cooking from my garden one more time while I wait for spring.
All you need to make a great tomatillo-chipotle salsa is some garlic (the other local ingredient), chipotle morita chiles, piloncillo sugar and salt.
This is pretty much a typical version of a traditional Mexican salsa with one exception. It's aggressively sweetened with piloncillo sugar. Most recipes I've read use little if any sugar but I love the smoky spicy sweet balance in this version. The other thing that makes this unique for me is that I can actually provide a precise recipe. I used to make this salsa to sell at the market so I took the time to refine the recipe so I could duplicate it every week. Keep in mind the all of the weights are for the ingredients after processing.
1 Lb. roasted tomatillos (husks removed of course). I like to roast them on the grill but in the broiler or in a dry skillet on the stove top is fine. You will loose about 25% of the weight during roasting so buy 35% more so you will have the right amount.
4 1/2 oz. roasted garlic. Roasting in a dry skillet, skin on would be traditional but use whatever method you prefer.
2 1/4 oz. stemmed and seeded chipotle morita chiles soaked in as little hot tap water as you can get away with and still rehydrate them.
3 oz. piloncillo sugar. Brown sugar also works.
1/2 oz. salt
Puree all of the ingredients except the tomatillos until completely smooth and then add the tomatillos pulse them until you get whatever consistency you prefer.
You can, of course, alter the amounts of any of the ingredients to suit your own taste but remember that this is a hot salsa and should be a showcase for the real flavor of the often misrepresented chipotle chile so if you're concerned about the heat, this salsa isn't for you. Mixing it 50/50 with sour cream make a great dip and cuts the heat quite a bit. It also works well as a seasoning paste or use it to braise a pork shoulder. Or just fry up some thick, enchilada-style corn tortillas and eat it as a snack.