Thursday, July 21, 2011

Smoky red salsa

I think the main reason I have always loved tortas with devotion I don't usually reserve for lunch fare is the smoky red chile sauce traditionally used as a condiment. Thanks to my genius foodie friend Igor, I have found wonderful Veracruz-style tortas right here in my own neighborhood. And their red chile salsa might be the best I've ever had in either country! So now I set out to reduplicate that salsa. Here is my first attempt: a complete failure as reduplications go, but a definite success, as delicious variations within a genre go. But first, an appetizing photo of a Veracruz-style torta. Notice the multiple meats, a symphony of pork products. 

Smoky red salsa
Add all destemmed chiles, except for 10 or so pequins, to boiling water and boil for 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile roast the unpeeled cloves of garlic and the tomato(es) on the comal. Peel the tomato(es) and garlic cloves once cool enough to do so. Strain the chiles, saving about a cup of water, and place in a blender along with the garlic, peeled tomato(es), and the rest of the piquin chiles. Blend until homogenous, adding just enough water to make a thick liquid, and fry in a sauce pan for a few good minutes. Then return the sauce to the blender, adding one or two Tbs of oil and blend until emulsified. This last step gives the sauce a creamier consistency. Salt to taste.

6 guajillo chiles
15 árbol chiles
25 piquin chiles
7 cloves of garlic
1 large tomato or 2 roma tomatoes
salt to taste

Bottled in La Norteñita crema mexicana jars.

Notes: The pequin chiles give the sauce its smoky taste, so I used a considerable amount. Boiling the chiles in water diminished their smokiness, so I added 10 or so uncooked pequins to the blender and that made a noticeable difference. Next time I won't boil any of the pequins at all and see what effect that has. The guajillos give the salsa a wonderful sweet tobacco-y body while the pequins add smoky, citrusy, nutty, notes. I love this combination of flavors but think it could be more subtle. Next time I might add a less distinct tasting chile –– cascabels or catarinas –– to give the salsa a solid neutral base with which to make the guajillo/pequin combination sing.

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