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Welcome to Hill Reeves, a blog where I write about the things I cook and bake in NYC.

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Homemade Chili Salsa

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Happy New Year! I just did yoga for the first time in 2014, as and I laid in my final savasana, meditating, my thoughts focused on one thing: how awesome is Mexican food? Sometimes I really can't handle how much I love it. So, I figured it was high time to share the secret to making great Mexican food at home-- chili sauce! You know that feeling you got when you made your first pico de gallo or guacamole, when you thought, "who the hell would pay money for a jarred version of this, when what I just made is so much cheaper and so much tastier?" I promise that making your own chili salsa will prove to be equally life-changing.

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These photos are as much of a recipe as you need, considering the whole process is pretty homespun. Find some dried chilis (Guajillo, Ancho, Serrano, or a combination). I like to use 6-8 peppers for one batch. With kitchen scissors, remove stem and cut open, length-wise. Remove seeds and ribs. You might want to use disposable gloves, or if not, make sure you wash your hands VERY well and don't touch your eyes with those spicy hands! Discard the seeds/ribs unless you want extra spice, in which case, you can add back in some seeds later on.

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Flatten the peppers on a hot skillet as you toast quickly on both sides, coaxing out some of their dormant flavor. I'll warn you that the air in your kitchen can get pretty spicy at this step, stinging eyes slightly, so make sure you have some ventilation! Once toasted, put in a saucepan/stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat, allowing the peppers to soak for 10 - 15 minutes. The peppers will turn from purpley-black to a bright red.

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Remove the peppers from the pot with tongs and add to a blender, seasoning liberally with salt. Also toss in 2-3 garlic cloves, and maybe a squeeze of lime. Also add back in some seeds if you're going for extra heat. (I'd add seeds in a 1/2 teaspoon at a time, tasting along the way to see how the heat level feels for you!) Then ladle in a 1-2 cups of the soaking liquid and blend for 2-3 minutes until completely smooth. If it isn't getting smooth enough, ladle in another scoop of the soaking liquid and continue. Once smooth, press through a mesh strainer into a sautee pan.

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Add in a tablespoon of olive oil and cook on a simmer for about ten minutes. I think of this step as cooking away the raw garlic flavor, so just taste as you go until that sharp garlic flavor turns to sweet. Let cool and then store in a glass jar (plastic will stain). You can eat this sauce with chips, use it to marinate a variety of meats, use it as a sauce on enchiladas, use it as the base for tortilla soup and more!

If you make the sauce and want suggestions on how to use it, let me know, but really the flavor will speak for itself-- you'll think of a million ideas immediately! Plus, once you have this down, it's fun to experiment with adding spices like cinnamon, or fruits like pineapple. I will post a recipe for a pork butt marinade soon, though. You start with a chunk of meat and this sauce, and end up with a fall-off-the-bone braise that's perfect for stuffing into tacos, or even just eating alone as a stew!

For a more precise recipe, check out this one from Simply Recipes or this one from Bon Appetit!

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