Girl + Fire = Food



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tia Lily's Salsa Colorada

My beloved aunt Lily is my mom's sister. They are originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and she is one of the best cooks I've ever met. As a rule, I don't eat at Mexican restaurants because nothing compares to my tia's cooking. I only eat her posole, and her tamales are a Christmas treat, but what she's best known for is her salsa.

Lest you think I'm putting my own mother down, let me tell you who the best Puerto Rican cook I've ever met is: my mom. While Tia Lily is the consummate Mexican cocinera, my mom had to learn to cook for my dad, who preferred his own homeland's cuisine. And hates celery.

The joke in our family is that you can always tell how angry she was when she makes her salsas by the level of spice. Those babies will burn through your tongue, even when she's in the greatest of moods. They can take on any Indian curry or southern Thai dish in a heat competition. You will probably sweat eating them. And it'll be totally worth it.

She made this salsa for a recent family gathering. One of the wonderful things about our family is that every occasion brings out the entire clan. I have 5 cousins on that side, 4 of which have their own children, and I love the parties we have together. PiƱatas, food, music, and kids running everywhere, that's life. It was on one of these family affairs, while my mouth was on fire, that I begged her to share the recipe. She laughed while telling me how utterly simple it is.

Like my dad's salsa, it goes great on everything: rice, tacos, eggs. But the salsa verde has far less heat than this one, so be careful how much you throw on your plate. Make sure you have lots of crema (or sour cream, milk, what have you) on hand!

It's especially delicious on an egg in a hole, which has a convenient buffer for heat built right in: bread!

print recipe

Tia Lily's Salsa Colorada
An intensely spicy red salsa.
  • 8 tomatillos
  • 6 chiles arbol (with seeds)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oil for frying chiles
  • 3 sprigs cilantro (more for garnish)
  • salt to taste 
1. Remove the papery outer skin of the tomatillos and rinse well (they will be pretty sticky). Chop in half, and put in a large pot of water. Make sure the water covers the tomatillos by at least an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes (till fork tender).2. While the tomatillos are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the chiles and fry until crispy. Remove from heat and discard the oil.3. Drain the tomatillos, reserving a quarter cup of the water. Blend together the tomatillos, fried chiles, garlic, and cilantro with half the water. Add more as needed for a thinner salsa. Add salt to taste.4. Pour into a bowl, garnish with some cilantro. Or pour over a dish that needs a bit of pizzazz. Enjoy.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 cups

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