Monday, February 20, 2012

Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol

Any time I leave Austin, even for just a few days, I miss the salsa. You can find tacos just about anywhere, and some are certainly better than others, but it’s the salsa I always look to first to judge a place. If I’m served a bland salsa that tastes more like a jar than like fresh, hot chiles, I know the meal isn’t going to matter much. Here at home, I sometimes choose a restaurant based on which type of salsa sounds good that day. I might be in the mood for a bright, tomato-forward sauce. Other days, a smoky puree of dried chiles could be what I want. There are tangy tomatillo salsas, extra-hot chipotle ones, chunky salsas, thin and smooth versions, and on and on. And, I’m not above begging for recipes for salsas. On one occasion, I asked a server at a restaurant if I could have the recipe for the deep, dark, smoky, and very spicy salsa they offered. After checking with the chef, she told me, no, she wasn’t allowed to give it to me, but then she quietly explained to me what she observed each day as the salsa was made. Serrano chiles were roasted until well-charred, and then they were pureed with onion and a little garlic. That’s still one of my favorites, but I always enjoy trying new ones. So, I was thrilled to see an entire article about various salsas in the August/September issue of Saveur, and I recently made two of them. The tomatillo and chipotle salsa with roasted garlic was simple and delicious and perfect for dipping chips. The one I want to tell you about today, though, is the peanut and chile de arbol salsa because it’s a little different from all the others I usually encounter. This is a thick puree, a little like a satay sauce, and it’s very well-suited to top a shrimp taco.

For this salsa, everything is cooked in a skillet on top of the stove. Peanuts, thyme, dried arbol chiles, black peppercorns, allspice berries, minced garlic, and chopped onion are sauteed until the onions are softened. The entire mixture is transferred to a blender, a little apple cider vinegar, salt, and some water are added, and it’s pureed until very smooth. Mine seemed very thick, so I added a bit more water and another dribble of vinegar and pureed again.

The finished sauce is a nice, light, beige color which might fool you about the level of heat you’re about to experience. The arbol chiles are not a subtle variety. However, once the salsa is spooned into a toasted tortilla filled with shrimp, shredded cabbage, and cilantro, its spiciness is just right. This is a keeper for my ever-expanding list of salsa favorites.



26 comments:

  1. Scrumptious! Food that talks to me.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Never seen salsa with peanuts before! Very cool. Love your story of sneaking the recipe from the server :)

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  3. What a gorgeous plate! An interesting salsa...like Michael, I've never heard of one with peanuts, but I'm ready and willing to give it a taste...especially with that beautiful shrimp taco....mmmmmmmmm.

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  4. I just like how word' salsa' sounds :) and in your pictures looks tempting too.

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  5. Even if the chefs aren't willing, there are ways.....
    :)
    Great salsa, Lisa.

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  6. I'm not even FROM Austin and I judge mexican food by it's salsa also! It's the only way to do it. Oh and by the guac. I'm so intrigued by this peanut salsa...definitely making it.

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  7. This is the best travel ad I can think of for Austin! This looks delicious, even at 8:00 in the morning.

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  8. I agree; I always judge a mexican restaurant by their salsa. If the salsa is great, a lot of other things can be forgiven ;-) I make salsa often at home. It's the perfect condiment and I love that it's healthy, too. Your recipe is one of my favorite kinds.

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  9. Why oh why does that look so good? Yum!

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  10. it's food like this that draws me to texas. it's the one state i have vowed to visit, and that's primarily for the food (and the prospect of finding my very own cowboy...). :)

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  11. A very unique salsa, a neat addition of peanuts!

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  12. This looks fantastic! I completely agree with you. A salsa determines if a place can cook or not. I think I will from now on keep that in mind. Love the chiles you used!

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  13. Peanuts in salsa is a totally new concept for me! A concept I love! You paired it perfectly with the shrimp tacos.

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  14. Absolutely gorgeous!! I love salsa, but I'm kind of a wimp because I can't handle too much spice. Poor me. I'm getting better though. Your photos are wonderful and I love hearing about all the salsas in Austin...one of my favorite cities in the U.S.

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  15. These look so beautiful and vibrant Lisa! Love it for our Summer weather over here. Peanuts in salsa? Genius!

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  16. A great salsa! Love peanuts in salsa.

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  17. Lisa, I never had peanut in salsa...sounds and looks delicious.
    Hope you are having a fabulous week :)

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  18. This is my kinda of meal! Im intrigued about the peanut. If I'm not a huge peanut fan, do you think I could get away with substituting almonds or some other nut?

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  19. Russell: I think blanched almonds would be a good substitute.

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  20. Since moving to Texas, I've found it's not a good idea to eat tacos, or salsa, or Tex Mex, or any type of Mexican cuisine while traveling as invariably I'm disappointed in comparison to offerings at the wealth of delicious outlets we have here. Even in California, other than fish tacos and carne asada, I don't generally find the cuisine up to par. This peanut and chile de arbol salsa sounds delcious and those shrimp tacos are making my mouth water!

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  21. I am intrigued with peanut in salsa -- but it does look and sound delicious :)

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  22. I am with you. I love salsas. Thanks for passing them on!

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  23. Your salsa looks delicious! I don't think I've ever seen salsa with peanuts before, but I bet it's great. It's almost like a combination of Asian and Tex-Mex!

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  24. I never get much adventurous with salsa and it is surely great to see this version. Thanks.

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  25. what a yummy sounding salsa, the peanut addition is new to me, but I imagine it is delicious and I cannot wait to try it. I am a salsa snob so I appreciate your struggle with leaving the city limits of Austin.

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