I am interested in real working kitchens and so I asked JJ if I could come over and scope out his "office." He invited me for salsa on what ended up being the hottest day of the year so far. We pushed the chiles to the limit, and without air conditioning, we slurped salsa from spoons while we we kicked back and talked about how a regular guy like JJ in a regular apartment (and tiny kitchen) in Brooklyn can make a great Mexican chef's recipes make sense to the rest of us.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with Chipotle and Árbol Chiles
Adapted from Truly Mexican: Essential Recipes and Techniques for Authentic Mexican Cooking
by Roberto Santibañez (Wiley)
Makes 1 1/4 cups
1/2 pound tomatillos (5 or 6), husked and rinsed
8 dried árbol chiles, wiped clean and stemmed
2 chipotle mora chiles (purplish-red color), wiped clean and stemmed
1 garlic head (about 12 cloves), cloves separated and peeled
10 whole allspice berries
1 large whole clove
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Set the oven or toaster oven to broil (alternatively, you can preheat the oven to 500°F) and preheat. If you’re using the oven broiler, position the rack 8 inches from the heat source.
Put the tomatillos on a foil-lined baking pan and roast, turning them over once halfway through, until their tops and bottoms have blackened and the tomatillos are a khaki-green color and cooked to the core, 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-low heat and toast the chiles and roast the garlic on the comal, pressing down on the árbol chiles until they are brown all over and blackened in spots and chipotle mora chiles have puffed up and are blistered in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. Continue roasting the garlic, turning it over frequently, until it is tender and golden brown with some blackened spots, 8 to 10 minutes.
Put the roasted tomatillos, chiles, and garlic in the blender jar with the allspice, clove, and salt and blend until smooth (the tomatillo seeds will still be visible). Season to taste with additional salt.
Keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days.