If I’m ever caught slacking at work, it’ll be because I wasn’t vigilant enough to cover my tracks as I scrolled through my favorite food websites.
I’m most likely to get pinched while reading the Dinner Tonight posts on Serious Eats. I tend to fixate on what I’m making for dinner in direct proportion to how hectic work’s gotten that day, and why I like DT so much is that it helps clear my head and focus on what really matters—you know, the evening meal. (I ascribe this to the fact that the featured recipes are always precise, contextual and simple to execute.)
So this past Monday, J and I made this DT recipe for poblano tacos. Missing the char of summer barbecues, I’d zeroed in on the description of the roasted poblanos as being “chocolatey” in flavor; a minute later I was clandestinely on the phone with J, who gets off work much earlier than me, dictating a grocery list to him in sotto voce.
It’s a fun and simple recipe: first, toast the peppers over your stove’s gas flame. When they’re uniformly blistered and charred, let them steam in a closed paper bag, and rub off the skins after about 5-7 minutes. Pull out the stems and seeds, and slice the poblanos into thin strips.
Then saute them in a little olive oil. What do you mean, you see errant seeds in there? What seeds? You’re drunk.
At this point, we could certainly have crammed the finished poblanos into a tortilla and eaten them with whatever salsa and sour cream we had on hand. However, we only had the latter. … because we’d decided to make our own salsa while the peppers steamed their skins loose.
Since our broiler emits billowing clouds of smoke, we opted to toast the jalapenos and garlic by the same stovetop method we used when toasting the poblanos.
Then, J (look at those cute hands) ground them with some sea salt in our mortar. As promised, this released a “wonderfully pungent aroma” that I’m proud to say we huffed for a while.
I’ll admit we cheated a little in preparing the salsa. Instead of roasting the tomatoes ourselves, we opted to use canned roasted tomatoes. Personally, I think it was the better choice. Having been roasted and canned at their peak ripeness, the tomatoes were juicy and flavorful, unlike the mealy winter tomatoes available in grocery stores these days. They ground beautifully in the mortar, and the flecks of charred tomato flavored the salsa just as freshly blackened ones would have. Of course, when we make this in the summer, we’ll use fresh tomatoes. But these cans will be our go-to for February salsas.
The salsa was one of the best I’ve ever had. Over the course of the past week, it’s made me evangelical about making fresh salsa—I’ve bellowed about it to everyone from my co-workers to bartenders. (Thanks for humoring me, R!)
I’m serious. I can see salsa revival tents in my future. Giant mortars set up inside. Tremendous pestles worked by the faithful. Miracles abounding.
We added some corn and frijoles borrachos* (although black beans, as one commenter pointed out, would probably have been more traditional to serve inside the tacos) to round them out. About 30 seconds later, with empty plates, we wished we’d made 20 for each of us.
*As this post is getting a little lengthy, I’ll get to our secret recipe for those at another time.