Discovering Dried Chiles

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Sunday night my Mom and I made a dinner at St. John Bosco Catholic Church attended by 60 people involved in the parish. We had chicken and pork as the main courses but I started the meal out with an authentic Mexican taco bar that featured three different salsas to slather on the tacos.

I learned how to make the salsas in August of 2005 at a one day cooking class with Sue Torres, chef and owner of SueƱos in New York City. Since then I have made the recipes she taught numerous times and have began pursuing a career in the food business. Chef Torres has since appeared on the Food Network’s Iron Chef and is a frequent judge on Chopped. It’s safe to say she’s a few of steps ahead of me.

For this recipe, I share the basic recipe I learned from Chef Torres that I used Sunday night for my taco bar. The salsas have the same base ingredients and are made identically. The difference in heat and flavor comes from the different dried chiles used for each batch.

During the actual class in 2005, Chef Torres didn’t reconstitute the chiles in boiling water, she toasted the chiles on a griddle. I’ve done it both ways, I prefer using the water because the chiles are easier to clean. With the skin pliable they can be sliced open and the seeds and ribs are easily removed with a knife.

During the class I received a call from my friend.

We had went out the night before on a date, and judging by the way the night went, I thought I probably wouldn’t be hearing from her again - the chemistry wasn’t right and she seemed to take my jokes personally. I thought she needed to lighten up a bit. I was surprised to see her name on the caller ID, so I walked out of the class to take the call.

When I answered she seemed a little panicked. I told her I was in the middle of something and didn’t have much time. She was calling me because she had just been in an accident. Everyone involved was ok, it’s just that she hadn’t run into another car.

She had run into a horse carriage near Central Park!

She was concerned but at the same time bewildered and I asked if she needed my help, but all was well and she encouraged me to go back to my class. I’m glad she called that day because it allowed us to remain friends, which we still are to this day.

Not only did I learn to make some kick-ass food at the class but I also have “A friend of mine hit a horse and buggy” story to go along with it.

Eat well, cook often ...

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