How’s your homemade taco game? Here are two salsa recipes, plus a marinade for a sizzling slice of beef to top them off.
Both salsas call for “roasted chilies”. You can buy them, from roadside stands in late fall each year, or from freezers at many grocery stores year-round, but charring the chiles yourself brings out the best flavor, aroma and homemade texture.
To char the chiles, place them on the lids or burner grates of a gas stove over medium heat, or on a griddle under a broiler (electric preferred), or in a heavy skillet or griddle. hot or heavy-bottomed cast iron. non-stick pan.
Blister the chiles, turning with tongs until all sides show blackened, bubbling skin (3-5 minutes per side for most charring methods). Then, place them in a large, heavy-walled plastic bag for 10 minutes to “sweat” them. (OK to have batches.) When they’ve cooled, run them under cold running water to loosen the blackened skin and, in some cases, rinse the seeds.
If the seeds remain in an unopened chili, cut it lengthwise, lay it skin side down, and scrape against the flesh with the dull side of a kitchen knife to push the seeds away.
The purpose of most marinades is to add flavor to the meat (or other protein or vegetable) being used, not to tenderize. This, despite what you have been taught or heard, how soaking muscle in marinade “softens or tenderizes” it before it reaches heat.
In truth, it is a mistake to apply here the proto-American adage that “if a little of something is good, then a lot must be better”. Soaking meat too long in the acidity of many marinades turns it into mush. Acid (like citrus fruits or wine or especially vinegar) does not sweeten; it comes apart. Marinate with caution and detachment.
If using beef, most traditional tacos take one of a few thin, fibrous, but deliciously beefy-flavored “flaps” from the bottom of the animal, such as skirt steak or flank steak (or even a cut simply called a “flap steak”). If you’re buying the butcher at a Latinx carniceria, look for “falda” (“skirt”) or “snatch” meat.
Flap of marinated beef
- 3/4 to 1 pound beef skirt, flank or flank steak
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red adobo or spice or steak (see note)
- Juice of 1 orange
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced
Make a marinade with the olive oil, the mix, the citrus juices and the garlic, and marinate the meat for 1 to 3 hours (no more or the acidity of the citrus fruits will make the meat mushy). On an outdoor grill, with charcoal (preferred) or other high heat, or indoors on a very hot cast iron skillet or grill pan, grill the meat for 3-4 minutes on each side, letting it sit for 5 minutes before back-cutting it into thin “fingers,” then into 1/2-inch cubes for taco filling.
Note: Make your own simple seasoning by mixing 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp hot or sweet paprika, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and 2 tsp chopped coriander soup.
Sweet and sour salsa with roasted peppers
Adapted from ailandzest.com. Makes 4 cups.
- 2 cups charred green chiles, roasted hot or medium hot (such as Hatch or Mirasol Mosco Pueblo), stemless, veined and seeded, with 1/2 cup retained
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered or minced
- 1 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems only, chopped
- Zest and juice of 1 large or 2 medium limes, flesh discarded
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 1 teaspoon of salt
Over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven and stir in the onions, cook and stir a little until they become translucent, between 6 and 8 minutes. Do not brown or caramelize them. Add the garlic and cook a little longer, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 90 seconds. Do not brown the garlic.
Cool the pan a little and transfer the contents to a food processor. Add 1 and 1/2 cups of chilies and beat everything 8 to 10 times. Add the remaining ingredients (still retaining the reserved 1/2 cup chiles) and puree until smooth enough for your liking.
Chop 1/2 cup of peppers and stir them into the mash. Store in the refrigerator in a closed container for up to 1 week. (It’s best to assemble the salsa at least a day before serving so the flavors blend and mature.)
salsa santa claus
This is so named because, as adapted, it combines the Christmas colors of red and green, is named after its adaptor, and is a “sacred sauce” as all food eaten in communion with like-minded people is saints. Adapted from “The Fort Restaurant Cookbook”, by Holly Arnold Kinney (Globe Pequot, 2021). Makes 1-2 cups.
- 6 large green chiles (like Anaheim or Hatch)
- 6 jalapeno peppers
- 6 red peppers (Fresno type)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Take turns roasting, sweating, peeling and seeding all the peppers. Cut into small dice and mix with salt, garlic and oregano. Drizzle with oil. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week and serve as a garnish or salsa. (It’s best to assemble the salsa at least a day before serving so the flavors blend and mature.)