Some things were meant to be together, like peanut butter and jelly or Oreos and milk. I’ll add one more pairing to the list: chips and salsa. But store-bought salsas are disappointing—either they’re too bland, too sweet, or too chunky. Look past the national brands, though, and you’ll discover several homegrown options that hit the right balance of flavor, texture, and heat. The secret? Roasted Pueblo chile peppers.
Chile peppers are big business in Pueblo, and chefs snap them up for their intense flavor. Fourth-generation farmer Carl Musso produces one million pounds of chile peppers a year on his Pueblo farm.
Harvested in the fall, these chiles can be found year-round in salsa marketed by Musso and 13 other farmers. The home-style salsa, available at www.mirasolchile.com, is all tomatoes and chiles. You’ll never look at a bag of chips the same way again, or, for that matter, a tamale, as envisioned here by chef Sean Yontz of Mezcal and Tambien.
RECIPE: Tamal Al Camarone Y Rajas (Makes approximately 20 tamales)
- 5 cups masa (found in the Mexican aisle of most supermarkets)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Pepper to taste
- 3 cups warm chicken broth
- ½ cup lard, melted and cooled (vegetable shortening can be substituted)
- 30 large dried corn husks (soaked in water at least 30 minutes and up to one day)*
- 20 shrimp (size 16/20, peeled and deveined)
- 8 poblano chile peppers (roasted, peeled, seeded, and julienned)
- 24 ounces queso fresco or Monterey Jack cheese
- 5 tablespoons minced garlic
- 5 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 5 limes, juiced
- 16-ounce jar of salsa, preferably Mira Sol Chile Homestyle Salsa
- Butcher’s twine or soaked corn husks sliced lengthwise into strips
Place masa, baking powder, salt, and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, and slowly add warm chicken stock and melted lard. Mix with your hands until the dough is smooth and spreadable. Lay each corn husk on a flat surface. Take approximately ¼ cup of dough, form into an oval, and flatten on the center of the husk. Top with roasted poblano strips and 1 ounce of cheese. Roll to form a cylinder, fold the ends over, and tie with the husk strips or twine. Finished tamales should be about 4 to 5 inches long, depending on the size of each husk. Working in batches, place tamales in a steamer and steam on low heat for 45 minutes or until the dough is firm.
Season shrimp with salt, pepper, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice, and cook on a grill until done, about 3 minutes per side.
To serve, cut open tamales with a knife and top each one with a shrimp. Garnish with a slice of poblano, queso fresco, and a spoonful of Mira Sol Chile Homestyle Salsa.
*Note: The recipe calls for extra corn husks for cutting into strips or in case some split while rolling.