So I’m going to Salsafest tomorrow, and I have entered a sauce in the “spicy” category. It’s pretty good stuff, sweet and very hot but not overbearing. It’s a salsa I’ve been tinkering with for years. It’s simple to make, and delicious, and of course, you can control the heat level if you make it.
You’ll start with red onions, habanero peppers (fresh), dried chipotle peppers, some peaches, peach nectar and achiote. The last item, Achiote, is a paste made from annatto seeds, garlic and other spices. Its comes in a brick and is available at most Mexican grocers, I usually find the ‘Yucateo’ brand. If you can’t find the achiote paste, you can also use whole or ground Annatto seeds, which you might find in the spice section. I prefer the paste, of course, because its additional ingredients add another dimension to the salsa.
Basically, I start by tearing up the dried chipotle by hand, removing the hard stem and making small pieces, about a half in square. Cover the chipotle pieces with peach nectar and let them soften. In the meantime, peel your red onions. With two red onions, use about a half cup of chipotle pieces, three or four habaneros (more or less as you desire your heat level) and about one quarter of the achiote brick, maybe a quarter cup and finally two whole peaches.
Cut the onions in quarters, cut the peaches into a few pieces and remove the pit. You can dice the peaches fine by hand, or pulse them in a food processor, then hold them on the side. Next put the onions in the food processor with a bit of peach nectar and the achiote. Spin it up on the highest speed until smooth. Add the soaking chipotles and the nectar they are soaking in and puree again until smooth.
It should be a deep red color with a very pronounced ‘tobacco’ smell and taste. Now add your habaneros and a pinch or two of salt and puree once again.
Finally, mix the peaches and the puree together well. Let it all rest in a refrigerator for about an hour and its ready to serve.
This salsa is great by itself on tacos or tostados or even scrambled eggs. I often marinate chicken breasts in the sauce and grill them. Or try sauteeing a few shrimp in olive oil and splashing in some of the salsa to finish them, served over rice.
Remember, when working with habaneros or other strong peppers, wash your hands thoroughly afterward or wear gloves when handling them. The smallest amount of the oils from a good habanero can be surprisingly potent even hours later. You rub your sleepy eyes and all of a sudden they are burning! So be careful.
Enjoy this salsa, its one of my favorite things to keep in the back of the fridge. And as always, Don’t be afraid of your kitchen!