The ultimate party snack, leveled up.
I love Mexican food. Like a lot. Authentic Mexican, Tex-Mex, shoot I even love stuff like Taco Bell and Taco John’s. And one of the best parts of going to any Mexican restaurant is the free-flowing chips and salsa. Hot or mild, red or green, I love it. My wife likes it, too, but can’t handle too much spice, so I usually end up getting to eat the majority of the salsa at the table. Totally fine with me. Plus, salsa is SUPER healthy. It’s an excellent way to deliver all the goodness of veggies without feeling like you’re just eating a load of veggies.
But why do I bother making my own? Jarred salsa, even the expensive, good quality stuff, isn’t that expensive, and it’s rare to find one that is bad. To be honest, I don’t usually bother making my own. But why do I go back and watch all the Marvel Studios movies at least once a year? Because sometimes you just want to do something.
Here’s the thing with homemade salsa. It is best made with the freshest of ingredients. Fresh, home-grown tomatoes; plump, shiny chiles; bright green cilantro… the BEST way to deal with an over-abundance of produce. There’s a problem, though. I know this sounds like heresy, but…………………. I don’t like fresh raw tomatoes. Hate them, in fact. The only thing that will ruin a dish faster than fresh raw tomatoes is peaches.
Please don’t hate me.
I figured something out, though. Fire. Hot dogs are best cooked on a campfire. Steaks are best cooked on a grill. When I wrote about the smoke-roasted potatoes, I mentioned how much I love live-fire cooking. So, instead of salsa, why not try fire-roasted salsa? Take the best, freshest ingredients, blister them over some hot coals, and see how that affects the outcome…… Oh yeah, I’m totally down with this experiment.
I bought some tomatoes (because I didn’t think ahead enough to plant any months before), some chiles, an onion, and few other things to see what I could come up with. I sliced the tomatoes in half and scoops the seeds out, primarily because I didn’t want the goopy middle. It’s hard to deal with on the grill. I chose a jalapeño for heat, a poblano for flavor, and a yellow onion for a little sweetness. Throw in some garlic, lime juice, a big pinch of salt, and cilantro to taste and we’ll see where it goes.
For the onion, I just cut a thick slice. I don’t really know what amount I used, but it was a slice about 1″ thick. Stick a toothpick or two in the side; it will help hold it together. Let everything char. Not burn, but char.
Any recipe I have seen that involves charring veggies has you take the veggies off the grill and wrap them in plastic. This steams the skins off. Why would someone do this? The charred bits add a great complex flavor with a hint of smokiness. SO GOOD! It hurts my heart a little bit every time I see someone throw that goodness away because it “looks burnt.”
Since my family can’t handle much spice, at this point I split the peppers and scraped out all the seeds.
A quick word on CILANTRO. I am one of those people. I typically hate cilantro. Tastes like a mix of lawn clippings and dish soap. But a little bit really helps brighten up the flavor of this salsa. Fire-roasted salsa, like any other fire-roasted thing, can have a bit of a dark flavor. The cilantro really did help. Don’t be afraid to try it. But don’t go overboard… you don’t want people thinking you didn’t rinse your salsa bowl after you washed it.
I like a finer textured salsa, so I chucked it all in the food processor and buzzed it up. Picked up a chip for the moment of truth, and….. the angels sang.
This makes a pretty thick, scoopable salsa, but I would imagine the texture would be quite different if you used a knife to chop the roasted veggies. If you try that, let me know in the comments how it turns out!
Fire-roasted salsa. Fire. Roasted. Salsa. Can it get any better? I submit that it cannot. (Oh, and in case you are curious if this fire-roasted salsa can really be considered legit or not, let me offer this up. A good friend of mine is Mexican (from outside Guadalajara) and he will vouch for this salsa. It’s legit.)
- 5-6 fresh tomatoes (the fresher, the better; homegrown if possible)
- 1″ thick slice of yellow onion
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 clove of garlic
- approx 2 tbsp cilantro, stems removed
- juice from 1 lime
- salt to taste
- oil for brushing (any high heat oil will work)
- Heat your grill to high heat (high flame on gas, bright glowing coals on charcoal).
- While the grill is heating, slice the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds with a spoon.
- Using a toothpick, secure the onion slice. (If you want a milder, roasted garlic flavor, put a toothpick through the garlic clove, too. This will keep it from falling through the grill grate. If you want a stronger garlic flavor, use it raw and don’t bother with the toothpick.)
- Drizzle the tomatoes and onion (and garlic if cooking that) with oil then sprinkle with salt.
- Place tomatoes, onion, and peppers (and garlic if cooking) on the hot grill grate.
- When the veggies blister and get a nice char, flip them over. When they have softened and you are happy with the amount of char, remove them from the grill.
- Carefully slice the peppers in half, remove the stems and the seeds. (These will be very hot, so do this step very carefully. And don’t touch your eyes after you touch the pepper. You will only ever do that once in your life, trust me.)
- Put everything into a food processor or blender and pulse to desired texture. If you prefer a chunkier salsa, you can chop the ingredients with a knife and stir everything together in a bowl.
- Add more salt to your liking if necessary.
I believe this salsa is best served at room temperature with thick tortilla chips. Enjoy; you will henceforth be known as the person who brought the best salsa ever to that party that one time.
* This recipe can be adjusted to fit any tastes. Add more jalapeños, throw in a habañero, leave out the cilantro, heck, even grill some peach and throw it in. Just don’t ask me to eat it.