I came home from the market one Saturday with a bag of small dried chiles from Tierra Vegetables. It was a mixture of some of their hottest chiles - chile de arbol, pulla, gold cayenne, scotch bonnet, jamaican habañero, aji, and costeños. I knew I wanted to make a hot hot salsa but I really didn't know how to go about doing it. I also didn't know anything about these particular types of peppers. Just that they were hot. Crazy hot.
After a bit of research, I learned that the chiles I was working with are actually quite friendly compared to this special class of chiles called Superhots - a class of chiles that are way way hotter than your average pepper. I learned that some of these Superhots pack the same number of Scoville heat units as law enforcement-grade pepper spray. I learned that there are "chileheads" who are constantly seeking out these Superhots like crack only to cry like babies upon consumption. The Superhots have names like Moruga Scorpion, Ghost Peppers, and Carolina Reaper. Just reading the names gives me the heebie-jeebies. A tiny fleck of one of these guys would probably make me keel over.
So I bought a pair of gloves. And a tub of sour cream. And I made salsa.
The first step in preparing dried chiles is usually the same. You dry-toast the chiles in a skillet, just for a few short minutes, then cover the chiles in boiling water, letting them soak for 20-30 minutes until soft and pliable. You then de-stem and de-seed the peppers, using the soft skins as you like.
To round out the hot chiles I threw in a few guajillos, which are pretty mild heat-wise.
This makes a thick salsa. I prefer it that way because you can always thin it out later depending on how you want to use it. Add more canola oil if you want more of a drizzling sauce. And PLEASE - wear gloves when handling the chiles. No joke - these guys don't play around. Keep a tub of sour cream near by should you need to smother your face/hands/elbows/eyeballs in it.
- 10 hot dried chiles (I used a mix of these)
- 3 mild dried chiles (such as guajillo chiles)
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. canola oil
- 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. honey
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- big handful cilantro
Toast the chiles in a dry heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until slightly charred on some sides, 4-5 minutes. Cover the toasted chiles in boiling water (I poured boiling water straight into the same skillet). Let sit for 20-30 minutes until the chiles are soft and pliable, reheating the water if needed.
When the chiles are soft, put on your handy dandy gloves, remove the chiles from the water, and de-stem and de-seed them. Place the soft skins in a food processor or blender.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cilantro, to the food processor, and blend. You're going to want to blend for quite a while. You want to make sure you chop up all those pesky skins. Some people strain the salsa to get rid of those pieces, but you'd probably lose some flavor that way.
When there aren't any more big chunks of pepper in the sauce, taste for seasonings and adjust to your liking - if the vinegar is too much, you may want to add another pinch of salt.
Lastly, add the cilantro and give it a few quick pulses to roughly chop it without pulverizing it. Serve the salsa with chips, eggs, tortillas, etc. - this stuff is good.