This earthy, vibrant salsa features the guajillo ("little gourd") chile that averages about 4 inches long and is one of the chiles used in making mole, along with the ancho chile and the pasilla chile. A brief toasting in oil bring out the guajillo's robust flavor. This is a chunky salsa so the toasted guajillo's are not soaked as commonly done with smooth chile sauces. The pureed guajillo's are combined with roasted tomatillos and sweet roasted onions and garlic resulting in a salsa that is not only delicious in the shrimp escabeche here, but can be slathered on grilled vegetables, or used in stews, soups or casseroles.
For the Salsa
For the Salsa
- 4 dried guajillo chiles (1 ounce)
- Olive oil-1/4 inch depth in a heavy duty skillet
- 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2-3/4 cup water
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey, optional, but smooths out the flavors some
- Pull the stems off the chilies, split them open and shake out the seeds. Heat the oil to 1/4-inch depth in a skillet over medium heat. Lay a chile in the hot oil-hot enough for the chile to bubble slowly. With tongs, turn the chile over several times as it toasts. It should take 15-20 seconds-too much and the chiles will burn and be bitter. Drain on paper towels. They will crisp as they cool.
- Preheat the broiler. In a rimmed baking sheet, lay some foil to completely cover the pan with about an inch overhang. Lay the tomatillos on the foil-lined baking pan. Set the pan 4 inches below the broiler and roast until the tomatillos have softened and blackened in places, about 8-10 minutes, turning the tomatillos halfway through the cooking process. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Reduce the oven heat to 425 F. In another baking pan lined with foil, combine the onion and garlic. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes; stir and bake an additional 10 minutes, stirring after another 5 minutes, or until the onions are golden and the garlic soft. Remove and cool to room temperature.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos with their juice and the dry roasted guajillos. Pulse to chop and then process until a smooth puree is formed. Scrape out two-thirds of the puree into a bowl. On a cutting board,roughly chop the onion and garlic, then add them to the blender or food processor with the remainder of the guajillo puree. Pulse several times to finely chop the onions/guajillo mixture. Add a little of the water, if necessary, to keep the salsa moving around the bowl of the processor. Scrape into the same bowl as the initial puree.
- Taste and season with salt. Taste again and add a little sugar to balance the flavors. The salsa is ready to use or can be covered and refrigerated for use within 5 days. Makes 2 cups.
For the Shrimp Escabeche
- 1-1/2 cups Roasted Guajillo Salsa
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey, or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled (last segment and tail left on) and deveined
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Puree the salsa if desired. Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the salsa and simmer briskly, stirring frequently, until it has cooked down to the consistency of a loose tomato paste. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Taste and season with salt and honey.
- Stir the shrimp into the cooked salsa and return the skillet to the heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp are just cooked through and opaque, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook as they will toughen. Transfer to a platter and let cool to room temperature. In a small strainer, rinse the sliced onion under cold water and shake dry. Add to shrimp along with the cilantro leaves. Serves 4-6 as an appetizer.
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