It's a salsa made from dried chilies. It's one of my favorite salsas and with so many different dried chilies available now, it's fun to play around with. I call it "Cheater's Chilito" because this is a faster way to make it than how my mom taught me.
Her method uses a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients into a paste. She also used 3 fresh tomatoes instead of the paste I use here. If you use tomatoes, substitue three peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes for the paste. It's better than the paste, especially if you have fresh tomatoes. But paste works too.
Mom would approve on two fronts: making the recipe your own, and "doing what you need to do to make it work."
Find any dried pepper and experiment -- dried chipoltes is always an easy winner. I like to start with chile de árbol for a little heat, then add a milder, more complex chili to compliment. Usually I have New Mexico chilies around, but today I found some anji panca chilies, which, apparently are from Peru. It turned out nice, dare I say just a tad fruity?
This makes about 1/2 cup.
- Some dried chilies. For example: 6 chile de árbol and 4 anji panca chilies.
- Pinch of dried oregano
- 1 clove garlic
- Pinch of kosher salt
- about 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- Heat a thick cast iron pan on medium heat. Mom used a comal -- which is like a cast iron pan without sides.
- Put the dried peppers in the pan and slowly heat them. Turn them every few minutes. The idea is to get them slightly colored and to drive out any remaining moisture. The chile de árbol will be done before the bigger peppers, which will puff up a bit as they gently char.
- Remove the stems and put the chile de árbol in a coffee grinder. Grind into a powder. (If you don't have a coffee grinder specifically for spices a good way to clean out the coffee stuff is to put a hunk of bread in there and grind it up. That will clean out the coffee bits).
- Once the bigger peppers are done, you'll need to open them up and remove the seeds. Then grind the skins in the grinder.
- (Optional) Put the seeds in the pan and give them a light toast -- reserve those too. I have a jar of toasted random chili seeds and bits of charred skin. When I need chili powder, I grind some up.
- Put the ground chilies in a small bowl.
- Mince the garlic. Then put a pinch of the kosher salt on the garlic and crush with the side of the knife until it's nearly a paste. Add the garlic to the bowl of ground chili.
- Add the thyme and the paste to the bowl.
- Add just enough boiling water to mix it all up into a paste -- about 1/4 cup. Mix it up and let it sit for an hour or so.