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Salsa verde with chile de arbol

April 7, 2013


As part of my ” Accompaniments” category,  I’m including salsas,  the flavorful, spicy condiment that is considered a must for what seems like most Mexican meals.   I’ve never seen my co-worker buddies eat without it, whether it be a quickly made fresh jalapeno-tomato salsa,  a dried chile type brought to work from home,  or the store bought bottled vinegary variety.  If all else fails, a raw jalapeno or Serrano pepper will do the trick.  Hot spice can liven up the meal and add another dimension of flavor.

In this simple traditional salsa,  tomatillos provide a tang, while the chile de arbol gives it a kick. The garlic contributes a little depth with subtle sweetness.  The very popular chile de arbol  is very spicy and care must be given that you don’t overdo it. This chile can be found dried in the “Latin-American”  section of supermarkets.  More grocery stores  seem to be carrying a wider variety of dried chiles. Many people choose this particular one because of its very hot qualities, resulting in a fiery salsa.  I enjoy hot like anybody else,  but I also want to be able to enjoy the  flavors of the other ingredients and the food it’s being served with,  so I tone down the heat a little.  The flavor of this chile doesn’t seem as pronounced as others like the guajillo, chipotle,  or Ancho pepper.  I think because of their heat factor, less of the chile de arbol is used, so less of the flavor is incorporated.  However,  roasting them on a skillet helps evoke more flavor.

If you can’t find chile de arbol, you can substitute  with other chiles,  but the quantity used will not be the same,  nor will you get the same flavor.  I’ll be posting other salsa recipes using other kinds of chiles in the future.

Special equipment you’ll need are a blender,  a heavy skillet,  and a metal spatula.


This recipe makes almost 3 cups of salsa:

2 pounds tomatillos

6 chiles de arbol (or more if you prefer it hotter)

2 large garlic cloves unpeeled

1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Set your oven to hi broil. Remove the stems and husks from the tomatillos. Wash the tomatillos to remove any soil and dry them.  Place them on a foil lined baking sheet.  Even if you use a non-stick pan, you may have a very sticky mess on your hands if you don’t take the precaution.  Put them in the broiler on the top or second rack.  Let them become somewhat black and blotchy and then turn them over to complete the roasting.  When they have once again begun to blacken a bit, remove them to cool. They will probably have exuded some of their juice.  The tomatillos should be softened by now, but not disintegrated.  It should take about 10-12  minutes depending on how hi the broil is. You can choose to use the low setting for a longer broil.  Just make sure the tomatillos are not overcooked.

While the tomatillos are broiling,  heat your skillet on the stovetop to medium.  Remove the stems from the chiles.  Break the chiles in half and shake out the seeds. I try to remove them all since the chile packs some serious heat.   Place some of the chiles on the skillet to toast.  Press down on them with the metal spatula to insure even toasting.  Be careful not to burn them or they will become bitter tasting.  Turn them over to roast the other side. The chiles will turn a darker color and emit an almost intoxicating aroma.  Remove from the skillet to cool. Repeat with the rest of the chiles.

Place the unpeeled garlic on the skillet to pan roast them.  Turn them over to thoroughly roast.  It’s ok to let them develop some dark  spots.  The garlic should soften.  Peel the garlic when cool enough to handle.

Put the tomatillos in the blender along with the chiles and garlic. Puree to a fairly smooth texture.   Add enough tomatillo juice if needed to get to the desired consistency .  Add water if needed though I’ve never had to.  Add the sugar and mix.  To cut back more of the tanginess, add a little more sugar.   Now season with salt.  Serve with tortilla chips or along  your favorite tacos, chalupas,  gorditas or tortas.  Like most salsas,  this is a versatile condiment.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Roberto Gonzalez permalink
    April 8, 2013 12:28 am

    Hey man great post!!! I like Ancho the best for its flavor, I can’t hang with arbol in my old age? I think you have to be born sucking on arbol to really enjoy it. I like putting tomatillos over a charcoal grill for the flavor too. I cooked for twelve guests this morning. I have total RESPECT for you working PRO! Yes Chef! Whew!

  2. April 8, 2013 12:47 am

    Hola Roberto, Chile de arbol is popular with my Mexican buddies at work because its so hot. I tried to balance the heat and flavors with this recipe by using less than usual chile. I like to be able to dip more than one tortilla chip! I hope you had a good time cooking for your guests this morning! I know, no matter how much planning and organization you do, there is always something that can potentially throw you off! Thanks for the comment!

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