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Apr 17, 2010 09:08 AM

JV's salsa

We moved from San Diego to Birmingham, AL, over 3 years ago and probably what we miss the most is decent Mexican food. What's funny is that whenever we tell a local this, they say, "You should try X restaurant. It's really good!" We don't even bother anymore: NO ONE makes real Mexican food here. It's all ground beef, iceberg lettuce, and shredded cheddar.

With the help of a giant recipe book I'm learning to make Mexican food myself, but the two things I wish I knew how to do are to make good carne asada and a good medium hot salsa. My favorite salsa was at JV's on Morena Blvd. The owner told me that he makes it with Japanese chilis which I had never heard of. I went to a Mexican grocer here in Birmingham and actually found them, but now I don't know what to do with them. Anyone have any ideas? Would anyone like to go to JV's and learn the secret to the salsa--the hot one?

And if you can tell me how to make carne asada, you'll make 2 San Diego transplants very, very happy!

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  1. Love JV's and though its Americanized Mex its good and the salsa is hot but its never hot enough for me but good.
    Have you asked them for the recipe for the salsa and the carne asada?
    They have a contact page with the link provided below.
    I've seen the Carne Asada at Costco..maybe not in AL.
    The taco scene looks pretty good and authentic in AL..check out the blog scene.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Beach Chick

      Thanks for that link--I just emailed JV's. Hope they reply!

      Thanks also for reminding me about that taco article: My husband and I were really excited when it appeared in the local paper. We tried several of the places but found the tacos greasy and gristley--but maybe that's authentic? ;-) But there are still a lot we haven't tried yet. One ENORMOUS local chef (who specializes in mac and cheese and other Southern favorites) told us to try Gordo's--which is kind of funny. We haven't yet, so maybe we'll give that a try.

      Thanks again!

    2. Birmingham, I can help a little. One of my employees is friends with the owner of JVs. He has the recipe, or a pretty close knock off of it. I'll see if I can get it from him on Monday. I've seen the recipe but can't remember all the ingredients. IIRC, it was pretty easy.

      In the meantime, I can tell you that the salsa has those chile japones (which can be pretty hot), tomatoes, and onion in it. The chiles are boiled, the tomatoes and onion are neither boiled nor toasted. All of it went in a blender with some salt and the other ingredients I can't remember and was given a few whirls to blend it.

      4 Replies
      1. re: DiningDiva

        Oh my gosh: my mouth is watering at the thought that we might be able to enjoy some JV's salsa soon!

        I've been able to make lots of Mexican dishes from my recipe book--but I really want that salsa to finish it off!

        If I can learn to make it, my husband and I won't have to drive 3 hours to Atlanta to buy Trader Joe's "Salsa Authentica" which is better than anything locally but doesn't have nearly the kick of JV's.

        iMuchas gracias!

        1. re: DiningDiva

          DiningDiva, did you have any luck getting the recipe? I haven't received a reply from the website.

          Can't wait to hear!

          1. re: Birmingham

            Actually, I have. Both recipes are, however, still in quantity volumes and I have not had a chance to adjust the yields yet. Stay tuned

            1. re: DiningDiva

              Let's go while we're still young..
              Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack
              ; )

        2. Don't know about SD carne asada, but grilled skirt steak with just some s & p is fairly standard in Yuma. You can give it a squeeze of lime juice, if you wish. I have done a marinae with lime juice and some oyster sauce as well, but most asada should be meat flavored not marinade flavored.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ed Dibble

            Doesn't marinating the meat in lime juice start to cook the meat? I thought beer is more common of a marinade for carne asada.

          2. Okay, here's the carne asada recipe adjusted for a homesize batch. I am not going to guarantee 100% that this is the real JV recipe. It is the recipe my employee said he got from the owner of JV. He's fairly trustworthy, so I tend to believe him :-)

            5# carne asada meat*
            1 1/2 Tbls. Kosher Salt
            1 1/2 tsp. black pepper (ground or coarsely ground is fine)
            1 Tbl. Granulated Garlic
            4 oz Orange Juice

            Combine spices with the OJ, marinate meat for about 30 mintues. Grill and slice.

            * Most meat purveyors in SD carry a "carne asada" cut. Since you live in an area where this probably isn't a standard cut, my best suggestion would be to use either skirt steak or flap meat.

            6 Replies
                1. re: DiningDiva

                  I was waiting for the hot salsa recipe..was busting your huevitas thinking that was what you were measuring down and taking all this time..jeeezzzzzzz

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Converting the recipe isn't actually that hard, it's the method. This is a cooked salsa and the directions are pretty sketchy. Verifying that has been the hold up.

                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      Beach Chick, you've been echoing my sentiments exactly--but here in the South, we're too polite to say things like that. ;-)

                  2. re: cstr

                    I make mine same as Mr. Dibble, above. Salt, pepper and whatever citrus is around. You have to taste the meat. The garlic sounds nice though; I can try some on half of the batch next time.

                2. Okay, here you go. This should yield somewhere around 1 qt. of salsa

                  3 1/2 oz. Chile Japones (hot dried chile)
                  1# 12 oz Roma Tomatoes
                  1 1/2 oz. garlic, roasted
                  3/4 cup water
                  1 1/2 oz. salt

                  Put the chiles in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, all you're trying to do is reconstitute the chiles. Remove from heat. The chiles can sit in the liquid while you're prepping everything else. Core and quarter the tomatoes. Have the roasted garlic, salt and water ready.

                  Drain the chiles and put all ingredients into a blender jar and blend twice. I would assume that blend twice means, blend it until you think it's done, check it, and then blend again.

                  I can tell you a couple of things...dried chiles LOVE salt. This recipe may need more or less, you won't know until you taste it. Taste your salsa, if it tastes a little flat, try adding small increments (like 1/4 tsp) at a time, blending and tasting after each salt addition. The flavor will *bloom* when the salt ratio is right. My employee says he often substitutes canned stewed tomatoes for the romas when the fresh product isn't very good. I can't tell you how much canned stewed tomatoes would go in the above recipe because my employee told me he uses a #10 can - juice and all - which is going to be about 6# and going to make a BIG batch.

                  Lastly, if this salsa tastes anywhere close to what you want, you can tweak it yourself to get the salsa you want. Ingredients most often used to balance a red salsa include salt, vinegar, sugar. If it's bitter try adding a little sugar and vinegar; sometimes some extra tomato helps too. This recipe has no onion, sometimes roasted white onion can help balance the sauce. If it's too hot, reduce the amount of chiles. If it's too bland, try adding some chile de arbol along with the japones. This recipe also has no Mexican organo in it. You can crush some and add it to the blender.

                  Good luck. I have no clue how close this recipe will really come to JVs. None of the ingredients are are terribly expensive, so I'd say give it a whirl and see how it works out.

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    "Give a whirl" when the recipe calls for using a blender. LOL!

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      I got a recipe for salsa rojo (taco shop hot sauce) from a Mexican friend's grandma about 10 years ago and it was pretty much identical to this. The mom used dried chiles de arbol, I like that a lot too.

                      Unfortunately the roma tomatoes are often somewhat bland, although far superior to the regular tomatoes.

                      I have yet to be able to duplicate the nuclear orange and red colors that many shops get, but I think I read that they use concentrates.

                      Thanks for the recipe!

                      1. re: MrKrispy

                        There are indeed chile pastes available for commercial use. I've played around with the chile de arbol and guajillo pastes without much success. The ones I tried always seemed to end up with an excessively bitter taste.

                        The orange color may also be the result of anatto, which adds very little flavor by tons of color.

                        1. re: MrKrispy

                          I agree about the roma's flavor but, they are meatier and less watery which would be good for a salsa. Thanks again DD for making the recipie home friendly.

                        2. re: DiningDiva

                          That explains why every time I try to make salsa it comes out bland. Not enough salt!

                          1. re: DiningDiva

                            DiningDiva, I've been away from the computer for several days (pesky tornado weather here), but THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I can't wait to try this! There really is a dearth of good Mexican food here, and while I've learned to make some decent Mexican dishes, what I really need is a good fresh salsa to liven things up. You may have saved our tastebuds from dying of boredom.

                            One last question: think this can be successfully frozen? I remember trying to save my little cups of JV's salsa in the fridge and having them go moldy on me in just a week or two. I know we wouldn't eat a quart of salsa that fast--but maybe I can start selling it to San Diego transplants. ;-)

                            1. re: Birmingham

                              Birmingham, with that much salt, you can easily can it. Just put the simmering salsa into a hot canning jar (Ball, Kerr right out of the dishwasher) put the lid on and process the jar in a kettle of simmering water for 20 minutes. If you want more detailed instructions, just google home canning or go to the Ball or Kerr websites. I make my own salsa using fresh roma tomatoes, Anaheim peppers, jalapenos, garlic, onions, salt pepper and cumin and some vinegar and always like it better than store bought.

                              1. re: John E.

                                Wow--what a great idea! No more 6-hour trips to Atlanta for Trader Joe's Salsa Autentica! I'm going to look into it.

                                1. re: John E.

                                  @ John E.....That recipe is not canning safe - salt doesn't make it so. You need acid in the form of either vinegar or lemon juice. Go back and read the Ball website again....or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Tomatoes need to be acidified. Hope this helps.

                                  1. re: momskitchen

                                    Just read your reply, Momskitchen, and I'm glad you wrote in. I had purchased all the stuff to try canning, but when I started reading the Ball instruction book, I chickened out and decided I'd rather make the salsa fresh each time than deal with all this. Now you've made me glad I didn't attempt it!

                                2. re: Birmingham

                                  Birmingham, I, too, have been away from the computer. First it crashed B-I-G time and then I went to San Antonio for a week to do a specialty workship at the Culinary Institute of America there on Regional Mexican Cuisine. I just got my computer back and it as clean as a whistle and everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - has to be relocated and reinstalled. I finally gave up and decided to see what had been posted here on CH while I was away :-)

                                  Fresh salsa does not freeze well. I think the suggestion to can it is a good one. I'd play around with the salsa until you get it how you want it and then try canning a batch to see if it holds up the way you want it to.

                                  I'm curious. Have you had a chance to try the recipe yet? How close is it?

                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                    Okay, Dining Diva, I FINALLY made the salsa. Part of the delay was that I was looking into canning so I could be ready to can the first batch I made. But after buying all the stuff needed for canning, I read over the instructions and recipe books and realized I was never going to do this except possibly for the salsa. Said to my husband (about canning jam and jelly, etc.), "That's what grocery stores are for!" ;-)

                                    Anyhow, I just now ate a little cheese quesadilla with the salsa on it and did enjoy it--but I don't get any flicker of remembrance as this being what JV's salsa tasted like. This very day my husband got the order from his doctor to lay off spicy foods since he might have acid reflux (it's just a guess, though). So I figured I'd better not make the salsa too spicy. What I ended up doing was using a 1 lb can of Cento diced roma tomatoes, a bulb of roasted garlic (never did that before but I'm doing it from now on!), and probably what ended up being less than a 1/4 of the 3 oz package of chiles japones. (I made a paste of half the package and then just added a little bit at a time. Didn't take much before I thought it was as hot as I wanted to go.) Added the salt too. But it just tasted like spicy tomato juice. So bit by bit I added everything else you suggested: vinegar, sugar, more sugar, lots more salt, chopped onion, Mexican oregano. THEN it had a good flavor and I'm now thinking of making cheese enchiladas with it. It's got a brighter flavor than typical enchilada sauce, and I like that a lot. But I don't recognize it as being JV's. It's been almost 4 years now, but I would think a bell would ring in my head if it tasted the same. Seemed like there was a more smokey flavor in there somehow. (Didn't have any chiles de arbol to add to the mix--wonder if they might have helped.)

                                    My husband and I didn't use the JV's salsa as a dipping salsa as we both found it too hot for that, but we did like to put it on carne asada and other dishes. I think this salsa will be about the same: I'll cook with it, but I wouldn't serve it with chips.

                                    So even though I can't say I made JVs salsa, it is good and now I just need to get some meat and make carne asada. If I can successfully make a carne asada burrito, I won't miss San Diego nearly as much--except for that whole great weather thing. :-)

                                    Thanks again!

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      Dining Diva, I just gave my husband a taste of the salsa and he really likes it. I asked him if it reminded him of JV's and he said, "If I had it with some carne asada, it would." So I guess we have a hit--yay. We haven't found "skirt steak" anywhere but we haven't looked all that hard yet. Maybe a local butcher can advise me.

                                      Many thanks from Birmingham!

                                      1. re: Birmingham

                                        If you have a Mexican market anywhere nearby many will have a meat counter. Ask for Arracherra.

                                        Barring a Mexican market or butcher, this is what you can tell a mainstream butcher that will make sense to him (or her)

                                        Skirt steak is a beef steak from the plate/flank. It is a long (somewhat narrow) piece of meat that tends to be tough but highly flavorful. You can give the butcher this code - NAMP121, which is further subdivided into NAMP 121, NAMP 121c and NAMP 121d. NAMP = North American Meat Purveyors Association. They have a code for all cuts of meat. A good butcher will know what you're asking for if you give them the NAMP code, if they don't it gives them a reference to talk to their source. Skirt steak may go by some other name where you are. If all else fails use a flat iron steak or a flank steak. Flank steak is a very close relative of the skirt steak.