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Food

How to Make Charred Salsa: Gabriela Cámara’s Salsa Tatemada Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 5, 2020 • 3 min read

All of the ingredients in this rich, smoky salsa tatemada are blistered on a hot comal before they’re combined in a molcajete (a Mexican-style mortar and pestle made from volcanic stone). The name of this salsa comes from the word tatemar (to grill) which itself comes from the Nahuatl tlatemati (to burn).

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3 Tips for Making Gabriela Cámara’s Salsa Tatemada

“The whole point of this sauce is to get the flavor of the charring,” says Mexican chef and restaurateur Gabriela Cámara of her salsa tatemada. Here’s how to ensure you get the perfect flavor:

  1. Use the tools you have. Gabriela uses a molcajete to grind the ingredients because it creates a rustic handmade sauce. She also uses a comal (a round, flat griddle) to blister the chiles. These tools, along with dried chiles, are available at Latin markets and online. If you’d rather, you can use a cast-iron skillet in place of a comal and a blender in place of a molcajete.
  2. Use the chiles available to you. This recipe features fresh serrano chiles and their dried counterparts, morita chiles, but salsa tatemada can be made with other types of chiles as well (you can substitute the fresh serranos for jalapeños and the morita for dry chipotle chile if the others are more readily available to you).
  3. Keep air flowing. If you are sensitive to spice, be mindful when deseeding and destemming the dried moritas—the veins of the chile often contain more heat than the seeds, so trim them out. And be sure to open a window and turn on the exhaust fan when charring the vegetables.

How to Serve Salsa Tatemada

Once it’s cooked, use your salsa tatemada to enliven your favorite Mexican food, such as tacos, tortilla chips, birria, quesadillas, burritos, fish, and even roasted veggies. This charred salsa is famously served as a condiment with pescado a la talla, a whole snapper which, Gabriela says is the most popular dish at her Mexico City restaurant, Contramar.

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Chef Gabriela Cámara’s Salsa Tatemada Recipe

Chef Gabriela Cámara’s Salsa Tatemada Recipe

Makes
about 760 grams
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Cook Time
15 min

Ingredients

  • 8 grams chile morita, destemmed
  • 20 grams garlic, roughly chopped
  • 150 grams white onion, roughly chopped
  • 12 grams serrano peppers, sliced in half lengthwise and deseeded
  • 200 grams tomatillo, husks discarded
  • 530 grams plum tomatoes, halved, stems removed
  • Salt to taste
  • 14 grams cilantro

Equipment:

  • Comal or cast-iron skillet
  • Molcajete or blender
  1. Place a comal or a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Place the dried chiles and garlic cloves on the comal or in the skillet to char. Cook the peppers until the skin softens slightly, about 2–3 minutes, then remove the chiles and place in a bowl or small pot of warm water to rehydrate. Set aside for at least 10–15 minutes—the chiles should be soft enough that their skin will disintegrate when ground. Leave the garlic on the comal or in the skillet to continue blistering, and add the onion.
  2. After about 3–4 minutes, remove the garlic and place it in the molcajete or blender. Continue roasting the onions on the comal or skillet and add the fresh serrano, cut side down (do not remove the seeds). Add the whole tomatillos and the sliced tomatoes, flesh side down. Flip the serranos so that both sides get charred and blistered. Continue roasting the onions, serrano, tomatillos, and tomatoes, flipping occasionally, until all ingredients are cooked through and charred, about 10–15 minutes. Turn the heat off the comal or skillet, but leave the charred vegetables where they are.
  3. If using a blender to combine, place all of the roasted ingredients into the jar, add salt to taste, add the cilantro, and blend or puree. Use the “pulse” button until the desired consistency—chunky or smooth—is reached.
  4. If using a molcajete to combine, place the onions and 1 of the tomatillos into the molcajete with the garlic. Grind the garlic, onions, and tomatillo together into a rough paste. Once the onions and garlic are smooth and pasty, add the remaining tomatillos and tomatoes to the molcajete, along with the salt. Continue to grind until the sauce is mostly smooth with some chunks (remove any large chunks of tomato skin with your fingers).
  5. Add the softened chiles to the molcajete and continue grinding the salsa, taking care to break down the chile skins. Add more salt and continue grinding or blending until the desired consistency is reached. Add the fresh cilantro to the sauce and stir without mashing to incorporate. Serve immediately. Salsa tatemada keeps covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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