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Email Eric 

Email Sharlene:  







For my last birthday, I received a Texas-style smoker, and I'm always looking for new ways to use it.  I came up with this recipe to make cooked Smoky Salsa Roja that will knock your socks off.  This salsa is fun and easy to make, very healthy, and compliments just about anything.  Cut up some wood, get out your smoker, and start smoking!

Special tools:  Wood smoker, blender, aluminum foil
Preparation time:  About 10 minutes
Cooking time:  2 to 3 hours, see text
Yield:  12 generous servings, or more

3 pounds firm tomatoes, halved; we prefer the Roma variety
4 pasilla chili peppers, seeded with veins removed; see text
2 onions, any variety; we prefer white onions
6 cloves fresh garlic
2 tomatillos, paper skin removed; cored
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste, about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
8 to 10 charcoal briquettes, and chunks of wood; see text

Light the charcoal briquettes and place them in the firebox of your smoker.  I use a chimney-style lighter, as I never use lighter fluid, as I'm a barbecue purist.  The idea of using the briquettes is that they provide an easy way to get the wood started.  When briquettes have a gray ash coating on the surface, add a couple pieces of the wood used for cooking.  To reiterate, the briquettes are only used to get the wood going, as the salsa will be cooked using wood only.

Photo:  I've got a good fire going, and the vegetables are ready to be placed in the cooking chamber.  Note the chimney starter on the deck, which is used to start the briquettes.

While wood is heating, core tomatoes and cut them in half.  Core, skin and cut onions into quarters.  Remove paper-like skin from tomatills, core and cut into quarters.  Remove skin from garlic, cut off ends.  Remove stems and cores from chili peppers.  Place all vegetables in aluminum baking pan, or aluminum foil.

When smoke comes from the chimney of your smoker, place pan of vegetables in smoker, close lid, and leave it alone.  Add addition wood as needed, to keep cooking temperature in the range 180 to 200 degrees, which makes for a cooking time of anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on how done you like your salsa.  Time and temperature aren't critical in a Texas-style smoker.

Photo:  This how the vegetables will look when they're cooked, after about 3 hours.  Be sure to leave the charred skin on the peppers for an extra smoky taste to the salsa.  Note the white onions have turned brown, which is natural when you're cooking by smoke.

When vegetables are done to your liking, remove them from the smoker and allow them to cool.  Mix all vegetables together and whirl in a blender.  You won't be able to fit all of the cooked vegetables into your blender, so you'll have to do it in several batches.  Place each batch of vegetable misture in a large, plastic or cermic bowl. Whirl ingredients to desired consistancy; we prefer a chunky salsa.  Do not discard juice, as it is an essential ingredient in the salsa.  Add salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon; add more if needed.  Add cumin.  Stir, blending all ingredients together.  That's it... you're ready to enjoy delicious Smoky Salsa Roja.

Why do I cook the chili peppers with the stems in place?  Presentation... it looks authentically good.  Just make sure you remove the stems and the cores before you add them to the blender.

Photo:  This photo illustrates the consistancy that we prefer... chunky.  If you want to use this salsa for enchilada sauce, you can puree is in your blender, to a runny sauce.

I usually use pasilla chili peppers, because they're the right size, have a robust taste, and are actually quite mild. You can use whatever variety of chili peppers you prefer, or have on hand, I guess you could even use bell peppers.

A word about wood...  I use oak, as its plentiful in our area, and it provides a delicious, smoky flavor, similar to hickory.  Use whatever size of wood that will fit into your firebox; saw the wood to fit if you have to.  If you don't have fireplace logs, you can purchase wood chunks at any hardware store.  Almost any hardwood will do, but I can't recommend mesquite, as it implants a harsh flavor in the vegetables.

Photo:  Here's a recent dinner that I enjoyed at work.  Clockwise, homemade Chicken Enchilada, mixed vetables, homemade Cowboy Beans, Smoky Salsa Roja, and homemade Spanish Rice.  I received many compliments from my co-workers how great my dinner smelled.

This Smoky Salsa Roja, goes on just about anything.  I especially love it on cooked vegetables, Spanish rice, Cowboy Beans and baked potatoes, as it adds a rich, smoky taste to whatever in compliments. It goes with just about any Mexican entree, and its especially good for Huevos Rancheros.  Note the fact that all of the ingredients are natural, so this salsa not only tastes good, but its good for you.  If you're on a diet, like I seem to be a great deal of the time, you'll welcome the taste, but you won't miss the calories.

This delicious salsa will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  


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