What would Mexican food be without salsas?! I don't even want to think about it. Amit likes to judge restaurants by the quality of their salsa.
There are more varieties of salsa than one can count, but they all revolve around the same basic ingredients: chiles, onion, tomato (or tomatillo), and garlic. Salsas can be used as dips (as in chips and salsa), ingredients (in soup. HINT: today's salsa is the star of our next recipe), toppings (enchiladas), side dish, basically anytime you want to add spice to your dish, there's a salsa for that. My mom insists that there should always be at least one green and one red salsa in the fridge at all times. Can't disagree with that!
Today, we're sharing the recipe for one of my favorite salsas: red salsa with tomatillo. Tomatillo is more commonly used with green salsa but its tangy flavor pairs really nicely with dried red chiles as well.
A short background on tomatillos: They are green tomato look-alikes, covered with a papery, waxy husk. Most people think they are green tomatoes, but they are actually more closely related to gooseberries than to tomatoes. They are tangy, and a bit citrusy. When choosing tomatillos, look for the ones that have filled out their husk to make sure they are fully ripe. To clean them, peel off the husk and rinse the sticky coating on them.
If you've never cooked with dried chiles, you may be intimidated by their size thinking it correlates to heat level - it doesn't. The reason for this is that after rehydrating them, you will remove the seeds, leaving you with the delicious flavor and hardly any of the heat. For this recipe, I chose my 2 favorite dry chiles, but you can substitute your favorite ones (or whatever is available in your local market). Chile ancho has a rich flavor and some sweetness, chile pasilla is darker and richer in flavor. I also added one serrano pepper for heat, it is listed as optional in the ingredient list.
Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)
- 6 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 2 pasilla (dried chiles)
- 2 ancho (dried chiles)
- 1 serrano chile (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 medium white onion
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (use water for vegetarian salsa)
- Salt to taste
1. In a medium bowl, rehydrate the dried chiles by soaking them in hot tap water for 15-20 minutes until pliable.
2. While the chiles are soaking, boil enough water to cover the tomatillos in a medium sauce pan (but don't start boiling the tomatillos just yet).
3. Add onion and serrano (optional) to the boiling water and cook until the onion is soft.
4. Add tomatillos to the boiling water and cook until they soften (you'll see their color change).
5. Remove tomatillos, onion, and serrano form the pot and put them in a blender. Let them cool down a bit before blending. Discard the water.
6. While the tomatillos are cooling, remove the stems and seeds from the soaked pasilla and ancho chiles. Discard the water.
7. Add the chiles, garlic, broth (or water), and salt to the blender and puree until all ingredients are combined. You can add more water or broth to change the consistency, if desired.
- Optional step: Strain the salsa. The flavor won't change, but the texture will. This is based on personal preference. I usually don't strain it if I'm eating it with chips or using it as an ingredient in soup, but do strain it for enchiladas.