Salsas and Sauces — By Ben on 29 March 2011
Xoconostle and Tomatillo Salsa

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Yesterday I wrote about the trips to Condesa tianguis and Xochimilco market with JJ Goode and his friend Matt. After our trip to the tianguis we went back to Ruth’s house for a cooking class. Ruth had most of the ingredients ready and after giving us our copies of the recipes the class started.We (actually Ruth and señora Carmen, Ruth’s maid, did most of the work) made the following dishes:

  • Xoconostle and tomatillo sauce
  • Mexican rice
  • Red pipian
  • Green mole de Puebla

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I will share all those recipes here. But I want to start with the sauce because it was something completely new for me. Xoconostle is the fruit of a cactus similar to the prickly pear. Even though tunas (pricly pear) and xoconostles look similar, they taste differently. Tunas are sweet and xoconostles are sour. Tunas are eaten as dessert or snacks and xoconostles are mainly used for salsas, though they can also be found in the form of candy and even syrup.

Another new ingredient for me were the yellow tomatillos. Ruth bought them at Xochimilco market for the first time and we were surprised how sweet they were. Tomatillos are usually tart, but this yellow kind was sweet and delicious so Ruth decided that they would make a delicious salsa. What you see in the picture are all the ingredients for the salsa (yellow tomatillos, xoconostles, jalapeño peppers, onion and one or two garlic cloves), plus some salt. The first step is to roast them. We did on a clay comal.

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After that, scoop the juicy flesh out of the xoconostles and put all the ingredients in a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Then grind them to make the sauce. Add salt to taste.

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And that’s it, you have a delicious sweet, sour and spicy sauce to use on your tacos, quesadillas, tlacoyos, sopes or any other dish you wish. Like I said above, I’ll be sharing with you the recipes for the moles we prepared that day. But cooking and eating is not all we did that day. We also had a tequila tasting courtesy of Casa Dragones. Sandra Chollet is the representative in the US for this brand and she was invited by Ruth to give us a little taste of what they are making.

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Casa Dragones is an expensive tequila, about $275 USD per bottle. But it is the best tequila I’ve tasted in my life (and I’ve had a lot of tequila in my life). Casa Dragones only makes one kind of tequila, Joven. There are 5 different kinds: Blanco, Joven, Reposado, Añejo and Extra Añejo. Although most brands that sell high end tequila concentrate on añejos and extra añejos, Casa Dragones concentrates on making a great quality artisan Joven tequila. Sandra explained to us that most cheap tequilas are not 100% agave. The yearly production is more than 225 million liters and it’s impossible to cultivate enough agave for those numbers.

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Tasting this tequila was such a great experience. I got schooled on sipping tequila, starting with the special glasses made for this purpose. I also learned how to recognize a good quality tequila by its color, transparency, thickness, aroma (interestingly, those glasses allow you to perceive three different features of the tequila depending where you place your nose) and of course taste. If you can get your hands on a bottle of this tequila I encourage you to try it. You won’t regret it! Find a retailer here.

¡Buen provecho!


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About Author

grew up around food. His family owned a restaurant in Mexico City and he spent a big deal of his childhood helping and learning after school the art of creating delicious dishes from simple ingredients. He created this blog to share his kitchen adventures with the world.

(18) Readers Comments

  1. That looks really good! I wish I could find tomatillo here.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. So interesting to learn about xoconostles! And, sweet, yellow tomatillos are new to me too. The sauce sounds delicious, and I'd love to try that tequila.

  3. Truly wonderful salsa. I can only find the green tomatillos here. I am sure I can find them at the Mexican grocery store, as we have quite a large Mexican community in the neighborhood.

  4. Yes, I’m the Ruth mentioned in Ben’s article (ruthincondechi.com or http://www.mexicosoulandessence.com )
    and now I’m offering cooking classes …… the kitchen rehab worked!

    and for those trying to find those “yellow” tomatillos – they are a seasonal variety and I don’t know if they are available in the USA. This from http://www.localharvest.org/tomatillos.jsp
    Tomatillos
    Also known as husk tomato, jamberry, miltomate or tomate verde. This small green to yellow member of the solanum family grows in a paper like cellulose husk. Tomatillo has been cultivated in Mexico and Guatemala since pre-Columbian times and has a very close relative further down south in the Andes: the aguaymanto from Cuzco.

  5. PS – the smaller the tomatillo the more intense the flavor – the small tomato de milpa are the preferred for slasas.

  6. Sounds like a pretty good tequila!! When are we getting some of this salsa??

  7. I sometimes see those prickly pears here and I never know what to do with them! I am so trying out this salsa next time I see them….absolutely delicious.

  8. I am so interested in those yelow tomatillos. Beautiful sauce..so rich in color. Will look for the tequila…

  9. You have sent me on a hunt: I'll definitely look for the tequila and what's more I simply have to find yellow tomatillos. I love the purple ones and have seen them partly yellow, but never ever have I found pure yellow ones like in your photo. Thanks again, Ben.

  10. You have no idea how much I would love to attend a cooking class in Mexico, new ingredients and premium tequila. It is impossible even to find con queso here.

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