Hot-ass chile piquín salsa
My only knowledge of chile piquín prior to Saturday was that it was sold two ways in Mexico City: as a wrinkly, small red chile
, or in powder form. (The powder is often used in spicy cocktails
here.) Last Saturday, a stand at Mercado Medellín had little bags of fresh piquín — small, green pea-sized chiles with rounded tips. I stopped and stared. “Es chile piquín?” I asked the vendor. She said yes and gave me a quick recipe: “Los asas, y los muelas con limón y sal.” You toast them, then grind them with lime and salt.
Seriously — how good did that sound? Especially with this heat we’ve been having. So I bought a bag, not really knowing what they tasted like. When I got to my friend Liz’s house, site of cooking activities for the afternoon, I popped one in my mouth. My brain yelled “FIRE!” so I spit it out. Oh my god. It was like chewing on a raw habanero, or what I imagine that to be like. Toasting them would reduce the heat a little bit, so I forged ahead with my salsa.
I toasted garlic, tomatillos and chiles on the comal, then ground everything in the molcajete with some coarse sea salt and a little water. I ended with a squeeze of lime juice, and then dipped my spoon in to taste. The result was a firecracker: right on the line between acid and sweet, with a hum of citrus from the lime. And the heat packed a double-wallop — it hit your tongue, then softened, then came back as a warm rush inside your mouth. I was addicted immediately. “Try the salsa!” I told Erik, Liz’s husband. He did and coughed and turn red. I kept telling Crayton to try it, and he put a few drops on his tostada. That was enough for him. I, meanwhile, kept spooning little teaspoons on my tostada and then wiping my damp forehead. Fresh chile piquín salsa Makes about 1/2 to 3/4 cup Note: I’ve been making a lot of salsas in the blender lately, and there’s a huge flavor difference in making one in the molcajete. If you’ve got a molcajete, please use it. I promise you won’t be grinding very long — I spent maybe 10 minutes. Ingredients 1 medium garlic clove, skin on 2 medium-sized tomate verde (I’m referring to the larger variety of tomatillo sold in Mexico; if you can only find the small ones, use three or four) 1 tablespoon fresh chile piquín Juice of 1/2 lime Sea salt To serve: Tortillas or tostadas Avocado Directions Heat a comal or nonstick skillet on medium-high. Place tomate in the center of the comal and the garlic at the edge, so it doesn’t burn. Toast both until soft and blackened in spots. Remove to a small bowl. Lower the flame slightly and add the chile piquín to the comal. Move quickly with a spatula or heat-proof cooking utensil; anything plastic will melt, because a hot comal is a beast. (Mine heats my kitchen in the winter.) The chiles should blacken in less than a minute. If they start popping all over the place, lower the flame and stir them vigorously. Remove to the molcajete when done. Peel the garlic and place in the molcajete with your chiles. Add about 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt. (I’m referring to the kind that goes in your salt grinder, the big kernels of salt.) Grind everything together with about a tablespoon of water. When you’ve got a thick paste — and it doesn’t have to be perfect — add the tomate verde one at a time. Grind some more, until the skins are mostly broken down. Add a little more water if you need. Squeeze in the lime juice and stir to combine. Taste for more salt if necessary. Serve on tostadas — I used teeny taquería-size tortillas that I’d crisped on the comal — topped with little wedges of avocado.