30 March 2007
Salsa Verde: an Indication of the Status of My Affection Towards my Dinner Guests
Tacos are hard work.
By the time I char/soak/blend the chiles and brown/braise/shred the meat and reduce the chile braising sauce and season/heat the beans and crumble the queso freso and dice the onions and mince the jalepeño and chop the cilantro and fry the tortillas and cut the avocados and slice the limes, I am a sweaty mess and my eyes are burning from the jalepeño oils because I always forget that I am not supposed to touch my eyeballs after I work with jalepeños, even if I have washed my hands seventeen times.
In any case, despite the delights of working with such wonderful ingredients, I will say again that tacos are hard work.
Therefore, I only make tacos for people whom I love. So if you ever come to my house and you get a taco, you know what that means.
Now, if you come to my house and you get a taco AND salsa verde (green salsa), which takes a little bit more effort on my part, then you know that I really do love you but I would like something from you in exchange for my epicurean exertions. Whether it be a meal at your house in the future, a mix CD, a ride on your motorcycle, or cold hard cash, you know that I have material expectations for our relationship.
If you come to my house and you get tacos but no salsa verde, that means that I am content with the status of our relationship and I need nothing from you in return aside from a yum and a hug when you go.
If you come to my house and you just get salsa verde but no taco, the salsa verde is most likely functioning as a snack, as opposed to an appetizer or a taco garnish, which means there will be no main course, which means I don’t want you staying any longer than it takes to eat the salsa verde, which means that I don’t really like you at all and I am subtly letting you know that I can’t wait for you to leave.
However, if you get salsa verde with no taco BUT the salsa verde has avocado smushed into it (YUM!), then you know that I do love you, obviously, because avocados aren’t cheap. The only reason you might not be getting a taco as well is that I am not in a particularly demonstrative mood and I am withholding my affections for the time being.
Now, if you have been to my house at least 14 times and at no point during the duration of your stay have you been handed a taco or salsa verde, I think we might need to re-evaluate our relationship. Probably what’s happening here is that we believe ourselves to be well suited for each other, and we’re really trying hard to make it work. But since I have not befittingly expressed my love for you, either with salsa verde or a taco, my subconscious is telling me that even though I think I love you, I really don’t, and I’m just pretending to love you.
But this is not just my fault, don’t pin this on me. If you wanted me to love you, all you would have to do is ask for tacos or salsa verde and then I could not say no, because I love them, and then since I made them for you, I would automatically love you, sort of like when people pick out marriage partners for their children and even though the newleyweds don’t love each other at first, they eventually learn to love each other out of necessity. It would be like that.
I hope this all makes sense. Let me know if you don’t fit into any of the above categories and I will verbally notify you of the status of our relationship.
Salsa Verde (Green Salsa)
~recipe is from my friend Jaime, who got it from her lover, Rick Bayless
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
8 large garlic cloves, peels left on
1-2 jalepeño chiles, stemmed (Taste them first to make sure they aren’t extremely spicy, or you won’t be able to taste the salsa. True story.)
1/2 - 3/4 cup white onion, chopped finely
handful of cilantro, chopped
sugar, white or brown
Spread tomatillos, garlic, and chiles on a baking sheet and put under the broiler.
Broil for about 5 minutes, until you see blackened, charred spots on the vegetables.
Flip them over and roast until they become darkened, juicy, soft and oozy.
Pour the entire contents of the pan into a blender (with juices). Add a bit of the cilantro.
Blend into a coarse purée. Add a little bit of water if necessary.
Add the onion, salt to taste, and the rest of the cilantro leaves, to taste.
(Don’t tell anyone, but I added a little bit of brown sugar for sweetness. Sweet and spicy is quite a pleasant flavor combination.)
~Caramelize onion slices in a pan or in the oven, then chop them and add. Salsa will be sweeter.
~Raw version: Don’t roast anything, just throw everything into the blender except for the onions, which are added at the end. Salsa will be more pungent than the roasted version.
~Mash an avocado or two with a fork, then stir into salsa. Makes a satisfying lunch with leftover tortillas or just eaten with a spoon.
El Milagro tortilla chips are made right here in Chicago. They are the best that I have found since I moved here, and they have a happy song on their website that you can listen to while you eat chips. I buy them at Hyde Park Produce, but their website lists other locations at which you can find them.