Cooking Like A Mexican

Classic Mexican salsa or “Pico de Gallo”
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

For some dishes its sauce is inseparable, for others it is part of the preparation, and for still others the sauce is a touch of whim.

Mexican sauces, (salsas),  are recognized  and admired worldwide. In addition to the heat they bring to the table, they give a special flavor. These recipes have a great story because from the beginning,  ancient Mexicans used to enhance the flavor of their food with different types of sauces, so here you will read just a bit of the history of sauces in pre-Hispanic times.

For a start, not all salsas were hot and not all were made of chili, some were made by only grinding the tomato, the green tomatoes or tomatillos or even peanuts mixed with different herbs and spices, as well as wild onions and cocoa. These were served with almost any dish.

Another ancient sauce is the guacamole that was made in the molcajetesm (stone bowls), mixing avocado, chili, tomato, onion and cilantro, which were all chopped up by the metlapil, which is the stone implement that goes with the stone bowl. 

Today, the method (blender or mortar and pestle) may vary from one cook to another, also remember that the range of chilies is huge and represent many different opportunities to prepare highly personalized creations.

When preparing sauces or handling hot peppers is very important to wear plastic gloves to prevent the chili from touching the skin, as it can be very irritating.

In gastronomy circles sauce is a semi-liquid mixture of hot and cold ingredients that are intended to accompany a dish. Almost all are of a semi-liquid consistency or a sauce can cover a very wide range from puree to much more liquid, almost like a broth.

In traditional cooking courses the art of the salsas is the base of the teaching, as it is considered that it is the first skill that every cooking student has to learn to become a chef. Sauces are supported by many categories: by temperature (hot or cold), by taste (sweet, spicy, sour, etc.), and by content.

The main purpose of a sauce is to serve as accompaniment. According to the texture, aroma or flavor, a sauce can accompany a dish both raw and cooked, hot or cold. In some cases the sauce is part of the preparation of a dish such as enchiladas and chilaquiles.

The sauces are virtually infinite in variety but the basic elements revolve around the chili: there are fresh, dried or smoked, can be used with or without seeds, and with or without vein. Roasted, grilled, fried, boiled or natural. Some additional ingredients like garlic and onion are almost always included, but can also include peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds, chocolate or lemon juice, green tomato or tomato, serrano chile, onion and garlic. There are an incredible number of combinations that can be made from four key ingredients. If you grill the tomato first, or if the ingredients are raw, if boiled, if fried, if grind or chop, if some like garlic or onions are deleted, all these are factors that change the flavor of the salsa

Sometimes the ingredients are raw and liquefied, in others they are cooked together in a mortar and pestle, (the mlcajete), and there are many versions of ingredients, often depending onregion.

Ee want to share some recipes that are simple and very basic in the Mexican cuisine. Maybe it’s my Mexican bias, but it seems to me that Mexican sauces always taste better when made in the molcajete, which are sold in almost every craft stall, but you can also make them without this ancient method. 

Here are some recipes from the most common salsas

Classic Mexican salsa or “Pico de Gallo”

Ingredients

1/2 kilo of ripe tomatoes, chopped into cubes with seeds and skin

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro

1 1/2 tablespoons green serrano chile, chopped finely

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

preparation

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust salt. Serve at room temperature in a gravy boat.

Raw green sauce “Salsa Verde”

Ingredients

1/2 kilo of green tomatoes or tomatillos peeled and split into four parts

3 serrano chilies fresh greens, sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon garlic peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons salt about

preparation

Blend tomatoes with chiles, water, for 20 seconds or until a smooth sauce is obtained. Stop the blender, add onion, garlic, cilantro, salt and liquefy five seconds. Test and adjust the salt. Serve at room temperature.

Classic Drunk sauce “Salsa borracha” . Come on, you know what borracha means. Its your state you are in at the end of a long night on the town.

Ingredients

1/2 cup light beer

1/2 cup orange juice

4 large roasted pasilla chilies without tails, seeded and deveined

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 large clove garlic, roasted in its skin and then peeled

3/4 teaspoon salt about

1/4 cup water

100 grams of stale cheese into strips (optional)

preparation

In a small saucepan over medium heat the beer and orange juice. Break the chiles with your hands and add them to the boiling liquid; cover and cook for 10 minutes or until peppers are tender; remove from heat and let cool.

Blend the peppers complete with fluid which is cooked, onion, garlic, salt and water until smooth sauce that is not necessary to strain. Taste and adjust salt to taste. Serve at room temperature in a gravy boat.

Decorate the surface of the sauce with strips of aged cheese or fresh white cheese.

Green sauce

The green sauce is perhaps the main protagonist of the typical Mexican food.

It is used in the production of typical Mexican dishes such as green chilaquiles, green enchiladas, soups, flutes, char-broiled steaks, chicken casserole, green mole, tamales and many others.

Ingredients:

6 green tomatoes

1/2 of a medium white onion

2 cloves garlic

4 serrano chiles

1 bunch cilantro

salt

Water

Preparation:

Grill green tomato, onion, garlic and serrano chile.

Cut the tip of chilies and open them in half to scrape gently with a knife and remove the seeds and the inside steams . Soak them in salted water to remove spicy. If you want your sauce very spicy omit these last steps.