Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February 26: Chile-Garlic Salsa

Sunday Nite Dinner has a recipe up for Vietnamese Chili Garlic sauce that looks amazing. It calls for a pound--a pound!--of habanero chiles, unseeded. This has got to taste like a blast furnace.

Practically every grocery store in America carries a variety of hot sauces marketed, it seems, mostly to knuckleheads in football jerseys whose aim in consuming hot sauce seems to be to try to make their other knucklehead friends cry first. It doesn't require much of a palate, or an imagination--only a high tolerance for pain. California Tortilla Company, a restaurant in our neighborhood, even has 80 or 90 bottles of hot sauce on shelves around the restaurant to sample.

Most of them don't do it for me. I love the heat, but I also want a blast of flavor, not just a shot of gasoline shaken over my food. Most are overwhelmed by the flavor of smoke or vinegar and come between me and the flavor of whatever I'm eating.

My favorite hot sauce is one that I make myself. I don't remember where it came from originally, only that it is incredibly simple and it's pure genius. It is reminiscent of that big plastic bottle of Siracha Thai-style chili-garlic sauce, but without the hit of vinegar and with a bigger bang of heat.

What to do with it? What not to do? Stir it into hot and sour soup. Mix into Asian noodle dishes. Drizzle it sparingly over grilled chicken. Give your Mexican rice impact. Toss it with short, nubbly pasta along with some chopped grilled or roasted veggies and crumbled feta or queso anjio. Stir it into a bowl of sour cream with a squeeze of lime juice and it's pure heaven on a taco or an enchilada. Add to a dull jarred salsa to revive it. Add it to stir-fried veggies. Brown ground beef for tacos in a spoonful of it.

This is made with dried chiles, which have to be soaked. To keep them submerged while soaking, I use my folding vegetable steamer in a bowl slightly larger around than the steamer. I put the chiles in the bottom, the steamer on top of them, and pour the boiling water over top to cover by an inch or so. The steamer holds everything down.

Makes about 1 cup and keeps forever in the refrigerator.

Chile-Garlic Salsa

1/2 pound (about 30) dried red chiles (I use New Mexico or pasilla chiles, depending on what looks good in the grocery store--they should be dark red and slightly pliable, not dusty and fossilized. Other possibilities include ancho, cascabel, or mulatos)
10-15 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons table salt

Soak chiles in boiling water to cover for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup soaking liquid.

In a food processor, combine chiles, garlic and salt. Process to a coarse paste. With food processor running slowly pour in the olive oil until everything comes together to a fairly smooth paste. If it is still a little thicker than you like, add the reserved soaking liquid, a tablespoon or two at a time.

Will keep indefinitely. If this is too hot for your taste, add vinegar to tame the heat.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

This looks really really good, I love hot things! In response to your question on my blog, potao water is just the liquid left over from boiling potatoes. No ignorance at all, I didn't discover it until a few months back! Just remember to let it cool down a bit before adding yeast, etc. Thanks for reading my blog!