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Query about Salsa

e
e.d. Jan 25, 2001 04:18 PM

Canon Fowler's postings at this board have caused me to wonder about the custom of giving diners a bowl of tomato/chili salsa and corn chips as an appetizer. I know Father Fowler has several times mentioned that traditional Sonoran food was not fiery hot. Here in Yuma, the food is similarly not fiery hot, but every sit-down Mexican restaurant here brings out some version of the salsa to customers--and almost every one in town is at least as fiery or hotter than what passes for "Hot" Salsa in jars in the supermarket--even the Herdez brand. Has this salsa always been part of Southwestern/Sonoran cuisine? Has the salsa always been so hot?

Anybody know?

  1. c
    Canon John C. Fowler Jan 25, 2001 08:54 PM

    Dear e.d.: In my years in Tucson, from 1924 until retiring from my parish there in 1987, I did not see salsa (especially fiery salsa) served before a meal until what we had called 'eastern visitors' turned into 'tourists', after World War II. Then restaurants (only) began to place hot salsa with 'corn chips' on the table before dinner. The usual dish (if any) at the beginning of dinner was what you call a caldo and I call sopa. But I find preparing a Mexican meal of, say, chiles rellenos or chicken pipian, enchiladas, refried beans, and guacamole so laborious and I am so short of handy relatives to help, that I cannot attempt more. (I make uncomplicated guacamole of fork-mashed avocados, leaving good lumps, some hand-chopped green chiles with a bit of their juice, salt, and some [goat] cheese on top. I buy large, very thin, warm flour tortillas from a good Mexican market to tear and use for dipping up the beans and other foods.) I am by no means an expert cook, Mexican or otherwise, and other cooks may have other ideas. I am a better judge of good food than a preparer of it. If events ever bring me back to Southern Arizona, I will make a point of coming further to share some Yuma food with you. Best regards, Clint Fowler

    1. c
      Canon Fowler Feb 24, 2001 01:05 PM

      Dear e.d.: I have just noticed that you were the person who asked about chile without tomatoes some time back. I suggest you use your best recipe for chile, but replace the tomato (sauce?) AND water with a like amount of beer. I have tried it a time or two with good success. As in cooking with wine, use the very best Mexican beer you can find, CORONA, DOS EQUIS, etc. Best of luck, Clint Fowler

      3 Replies
      1. re: Canon Fowler
        c
        Canon Fowler Feb 24, 2001 02:34 PM

        e.d.: The BEST Mexican beer went out of my now rather elderly memory for a moment. It is CARTA BLANCA, of course, several points above the other two I named. O that my blood pressure and liver were in younger condition and suitable for my drinking icy-cold Carta Blanca again! For me, it is now ONE DOUBLE MARTINI once a week. As Mr. Leff habitually signs off: Eat well, Clint Fowler

        1. re: Canon Fowler
          j
          Jim Dorsch Feb 25, 2001 06:34 AM

          I'm not saying this is true or it isn't, but a competition chili cook once told me never to add beer to your chili because it causes it to smell like dirty socks.

          On a more serious note, one should take care when cooking with beer. A hoppy brew, when reduced during cooking, will make the food bitter. However, the beers you mention seem pretty safe in this regard.

          1. re: Jim Dorsch
            c
            Canon Fowler Feb 26, 2001 08:40 AM

            Dear Jim Dorch: Good comments on both counts. (I could say that I don't know what dirty socks smell like, but it would sound snooty to some of our colleagues, besides which I was an infantryman in Europe in 1944-5 when clean socks were sometimes in short supply under battle conditions.) As I commented, cooking with beer OR wine requires the very best of each. (If you don't enjoy the drink, don't put it in your food!) And I don't recommend always making chile with beer unless tomatoes are off a person's diet. I use the very best tomato sauce, either made by me or commercially available. Best regards, Clint Fowler

      2. c
        Canon Fowler Feb 28, 2001 08:06 AM

        Dear e.d.: I see, on re-reading, that you were not the questioner about chile without tomatoes, but an ANSWERER. Sorry for the mistake. Perhaps I did some good by chance, anyway. I heard the recently famous lawyer David Boise (sp.?), Gore's lawyer in Fla., say he ate nothing with tomatoes in it. If he makes chile and reads CHOWHOUND, he can use my suggestion. (I have not gone to SOAR for some time. It is indeed a good source of recipes.) Best regards, Clint Fowler

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