Cascabel Chiles are the quiet kid in the back of the classroom. Their smaller size and mild heat has kept them off most people's radar.
Named after the distinctive rattle their seeds make, Cascabels are typically paired with other, more robust chiles to make up for their perceived shortcomings.
But Cascabels have a unique flavor that can easily stand up on its own when given the opportunity. Fruity and nutty undertones have created legions of fans devoted to this simpler flavor that somehow tastes of the Earth.
This particular Cascabel Chile Salsa limits the other ingredients so that the quiet kid can finally be heard loud and clear.
Start by wiping off 7-8 Cascabels with a damp towel as there can be pockets of dirt in the surface folds.
Tear each chile into 2-3 pieces and set aside the stems and seeds.
Heat a comal or skillet on medium-low heat and press the chiles into the pan until they soften and begin to change color, about 1-2 minutes. This flash-heating wakens some flavors that lie dormant at room temperature.
Cover with hot tap water in a bowl and soak for 10-20 minutes. If you have any floaters you can use a plate or small bowl to keep them submerged.
While the chiles reconstitute, husk and rinse 2 tomatillos and roast them in the oven at 400F. They'll be ready when they start to turn army green in about 10-15 minutes.
Add the tomatillos and Cascabels to a blender along with 2 peeled garlic cloves. Don't worry about draining the Cascabels too thoroughly, you can just pick them up out of the soaking liquid.
Add an additional 1/4 cup of soaking liquid that was used to reconstitute the chiles, along with a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
Pulse blend and taste for seasoning.
You'll end up with a rich, delicious salsa that has a subtle and addictive flavor: slightly acidic with nutty undertones and ample heat.
It can be used on just about anything, with a special nod to grilled meats and/or lazy afternoons centered around tortilla chips.
You'll find Cascabels in Hispanic markets and some gourmet grocers.
Pick a few up next time you see them, it's worth giving them a listen.
Cascabel Chile Salsa
- 7-8 dried Cascabel chiles
- 2 tomatillos
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- salt to taste
- Wipe down the Cascabel chiles with a damp paper towel
- Tear open the chiles and remove the stems and seeds
- Tear each chile into 2-3 pieces
- Using a comal or skillet on medium-low heat, cook the Cascabels until they soften and start to change color, about 1-2 minutes. Use a spatula to press them into the skillet.
- Place chiles in a bowl and cover with hot tap water. Submerge and let reconstitute for 10-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, husk and rinse 2 tomatillos (I usually remove the stem but this is optional)
- Roast tomatillos in the oven at 400F for 10-15 minutes or until they start to turn army green in color
- Add tomatillos, chiles, and 2 peeled garlic cloves to a blender
- Add approximately 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid to the blender, along with a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- Pulse blend and taste for seasoning
- Serve immediately
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge
We use a similar recipe in this Pasilla Chile Salsa.