Joe Baker's Damn Good Salsa (and Huevos Rancheros Redux)

Finding this salsa recipe was a bit like finding religion, but better! I got both the euphoria and the feeling that I'd been wandering aimlessly for too many years before the discovery--but without feeling judged or having to listen to hymns that sound, perhaps unintentionally, like plodding, joyless dirges.

Now that I've trivialized something that billions hold dear and invited angry comments (there I go again, assuming actual readership exceeding five persons), allow me to apologize and talk about the salsa.

I have made my own salsa since I was a wastrel of a teenager in Albuquerque, New Mexico who couldn't cook a lick. Even as my kitchen skills have improved over the years, my salsas have only occasionally risen above shrug-producing.

A few weeks ago, however, while visiting one of my sisters in the tiny town of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, I was introduced to a real true connoisseure of good food, a scholar of history, and a mean blues harp player: Joe Baker. (You can check out his entertaining blog here, where he posits on a wide variety of subjects).

Joe treated us to some seriously good venison quesadillas. The salsa was addictive, and lucky for me (and now you), he relayed the recipe. I print it below in full in its original form. I've made it three times since, each time with different tomatoes and different combinations of peppers, and all of them have been great, if not as great as the original.

A couple weeks ago, a Sunday brunch gave me the chance to share the salsa with friends, topping as it did a near-perfect batch of heuvos rancheros. I'll freely admit I'm getting further and further away from the old-school standby of simply beans, eggs, and a tortilla. These days I'm crock-potting the beans overnight in a combination of san marzano crushed tomatoes, beer, ancho pepper, cumin, garlic, and parsley. The potatoes are half-boiled, then fried in a bit of olive oil and a good dose of cumin and smoked paprika. Then I serve it all with poached eggs, slab bacon, fresh cilantro, guacamole, flour tortillas, chopped jalapeno, and a good sharp cheddar. I was already entering the upper reaches of Paradiso with my huevos rancheros. Now that I've added this salsa, I can hear Beatrice singing and the Holy Ghost settin' the breakfast table.

Try it yourself, and see the light. And five million thanks to Joe Baker. I'll be making this salsa for years and years to come.

Joe’s Salsa


· 1 whole chipotle or about a tablespoon of chipotle powder (KM's note: I used chipotle in adobo sauce, since it was all I had, but you're better off with a straight chipotle or the powder)

· 1 whole ancho or about two tablespoons of ancho chili powder

· ½ teaspoon ground cumin or cumin seed

· About a cup of fresh or frozen fresh cilantro

· 1 whole fresh jalapeno (or whatever number you like to make the salsa spicy, cayenne’s work OK too) (KM's note: I'm a sucker for habanero, and it tastes good with this too, if you don't overdo it).

· A teaspoon of sea salt

· A heaping tablespoon (more or less) of brown sugar or honey

· 2 cloves of garlic

· ½ medium onion, diced

· 3 or 4 medium sized fresh, ripe home grown tomatoes or a large can of crushed tomatoes

Add everything but the tomatoes to a food processor and blend them thoroughly, then add the tomatoes and blend again. You can also make this by hand. Soak the dried chilies in warm water, then chop them and everything else together in a large bowl. Store in the fridge. Makes about a quart. This salsa has no oil and is not cooked. The garlic will go rancid in about a week. If you freeze it, it will get watery (although it’s still good). I guess that means you should enjoy it within a week! JB


Anonymous said...

MMMMM mmmm mmm. That looks mighty good!!

Way to go Matthew and Joe!


emily pelton said...

A most delicious salsa! We enjoy it at family events often...the sweet to hot sensations are unparalleled.

JB's niece