Complex and fresh flavors mingle to create this epic fire roasted salsa.
This salsa is known as “salsa quemada” or “burnt salsa” thanks to the blistered and blackened appearance the fire roasting gives the peppers and tomatoes. But it’s not just about appearances. The fire roasting intensifies the flavor of the chilies and tomatoes and builds depth. And, let’s be honest, the little black charred pieces floating around in the salsa look pretty cool.
When I have the time I use a molcajete to make my salsa. A molcajete is a traditional Mexican mortar and pestle made from volcanic stone, and is commonly used for salsas. It’s a little time consuming, but actually pretty cathartic! You do need to be a little careful when using this technique that you take your time, otherwise you end up with unruly chunks of tomato. Technically, if your salsa is made in a molcajete, it is referred to as “salsa mocajete”. But, if you’re not trying to make your life complicated, you can easily make this in a blender. It does change the consistency a little but it will still have phenomenal flavor.
What I like most about this recipe is the versatility of ingredients. Like it spicier? Add more serrano! Not a fan of heat? Use one jalapeno instead. Want a green version? Substitute the tomatoes with tomatillos. Want a more vividly red salsa? Leave out the poblano pepper. And if you’re looking for a fresh rather than cooked salsa option, try this recipe.
No grill? No worries. The “fire roasted” flavors can be faked using a broiler instead. Just cut the veggies in half and blast them under high heat until they start to blister. Voila – fire roasted flecks without the fire!
Light a half chimney of coals until ashed over, then dump into a grill. Do not replace the grate, yet.
Working one piece at a time, place the whole poblano and serrano peppers directly into the coals, turning every 10-20 seconds until the skin blisters, then remove. Repeat this step with the whole tomatoes and half onion. It’s ok if the onion has skin on, you can always remove the outer layer. Meanwhile, place the garlic cloves in a small piece of foil and seal to form a pouch.
Once all the veggies have been charred, replace the grate on the grill and put the veggies on the grate. They have charred, but still need to soften. This step is particularly important if you are planning to grind your salsa by hand in a molcajete, as everything will need to be nice and soft. If you are using a blender, the blades will do the work for you so you can remove them a little sooner. Place the pouch of garlic into the grill. Allow the onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes to cook and soften for a further 15 minutes with the lid closed.
Remove ingredients from the grill, allow to cool. Peel off burnt skin from peppers, onion and tomatoes and discard. Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and discard.
If using a molcajete: start by grinding the softened garlic gloves with some salt, then add in the peppers one at a time. Do not add new ingredients until the last addition has become a smooth paste. Add tomatoes last.
If using a blender – throw garlic, onions, tomatoes and chilies into a blender and blitz until smooth.
Add the juice of a fresh lime, and salt to taste. Stir and serve with fresh tortilla chips.