After using my newly cured molcajete (Mexican volcanic rock mortar) for guacamole in my previous post, I decided to indulge with another salsa molcajeteada (sauce made in a Mexican mortar.) Other than using raw ingredients, charring is probably the most ancient method to prepare ingredients for a salsa; the term in Spanish is tatemar, from the Nahuatl word tlatemati – to char, to expose to fire.
In this recipe, there is a very short list of ingredients to glean: fresh tomatillos, onion, cilantro, serrano peppers and coarse salt:
Since this is a green sauce, I do not offer substitutes for fresh tomatillos, but if not available, a red sauce may be prepared with Roma tomatoes. Serrano peppers are also a staple for charred sauces; the closest substitution would be Thai hot green chilies, or fresh jalapeños could be used, as a last resort.
Charred Green Sauce – Salsa Verde Tatemada
Ingredients (for approximately two cups)
1 lb (454g) tomatillos
¼ white onion
1 serrano pepper, or more, to taste
Small bunch cilantro
½ tsp coarse salt, or to taste
Remove and discard papery wrap from tomatillos. Wash tomatillos, pepper(s) and cilantro. Peel onion, and separate layers. Place a comal (Mexican flat griddle) or an iron skillet over high heat, and allow to become very hot, then arrange tomatillos, onions and pepper(s) on the hot surface (photo below, left). Roast the veggies, turning as they brown (photo below, centre). Continue roasting and turning, until all the ingredients are nicely charred (photo below, right):
Remove from heat.
Remove and discard stem from pepper(s) and place in molcajete* along with the coarse salt (photo below, left). Grind with the tejolote (pestle), then add onions( photo below, right):
Continue grinding, breaking the veggies into small chunks using short strokes, trying no to smear them (photo below, left). Continue these movements, pounding close to the bowl to avoid splattering; this is a labour of love, and might take some time. One of my daughters and her boyfriend were around to help; in the photo below, right, he is pounding charred tomatillos, as we add them one by one to the bowl:
My daughter took over, with a nice two-handed technique, to finish grinding and incorporating the last tomatillos (photo below, left); notice how the last ingredients might remain chunkier, as the molcajete gets full and there is less contact between the mortar and the pestle. Finish the sauce by tearing cilantro leaves and short stem segments by hand, and mixing in (photo below, right):
As shown below and at the top of this post, the charred green sauce made in a molcajete is full of texture, with charred bits from all the veggies:
* This sauce may be prepared in an instant with a blender or food processor, by pulsing, trying to obtain a chunky texture. However, the non-uniform texture as a result of making a salsa molcajeteada, is a big part of its charm. In addition, there is always some material being ground off the molcajete as it is used, adding unique salty and mineral notes to the flavour of the sauce. It is said that not two batches of salsa molcajeteada will ever be exactly the same, so if at all possible, use a molcajete, and let the electric appliances lie low this time.
We just could not stop adding the sauce, tatemada and molcajeteada, to our tacos, as we promptly devoured them, attested by the complete lack of photographs of our amenable family meal of vegetarian and chicken alambres that evening ¡Buen provecho!
For your convenience, click on the images below for products available on Amazon™. DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased, not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for any purchases originated from the links below, at no extra cost to you (thank you to readers who have bought other products starting with a click from my links!):
I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #524, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode. Special thank to Bev for featuring my Couscous Salad with a Mexican Twist at her party.