Chances are, unless you grew up in New Mexico or in a city of town near its borders, you probably haven’t had much exposure to New Mexican food. America, by and large, has New Mexico lumped in, along with Texas and Arizona, in to the “Southwest” style of cuisine, which is true, but you’ll find that New Mexico seems to skew its cooking culture a little more towards central Mexico than, for example, Texas. You’ll find that of the three states, New Mexico puts the most emphasis on the inclusion of chiles in their diet, and the passionate dedication to particular preparations of these chiles can sometimes spark contentious discussions at the table. It’s simply one of those scenarios in which a positive or negative rating for flavor here will spark debate, such as the Beans or No Beans debate that chili cooks have, simply because, no matter how I think this tastes, there’s probably someone out there that thinks it should have been done with red chiles instead.
The main focus point for this salsa is fire roasted Green New Mexican Chiles. Many of you will be familiar with the most well know variety of New Mexico green chile as being the Hatch chile, and chiles like these really do need to be fire roasted, for two main reasons. First, honestly, the fire roasting process just makes them taste better, as it imparts different flavors in to the chile, but secondly, a more utilitarian reason, but the most important, is that roasting them just simply makes them easier and more enjoyable to eat, as they have a dense, tough outer skin that is sort of like eating something without taking it out of a plastic bag if it is not removed. The process of fire roasting them blisters up that undesirable outer skin and allows it to be easily removed to expose the flesh of the chile beneath that can now be used to make a variety of foods. Here’s the full list of what makes up this jar: Green chili, Roasted tomato, Onion, Tomato Paste, Salt, Potato Starch, Crushed Red Chili, Soybean Oil, Garlic, and Citric Acid.
I would say that the average person would liken the overall texture of this to a hearty soup or stew. While the sizes of the chiles, tomatoes, and onions are fairly generous, the base of this salsa is thin, and likely consists heavily of the juices from the roasted green chiles and tomatoes. There isn’t much as far as vibrant color goes to this. The base of this mix is a reddish-brown, specked with black bits from the charred chiles and tomatoes. The other ingredients appear to have been cooked for a fair amount of time and so their color has become muted and though they are distinguishable, seem to have just assimilated in to the reddish-brown color family, with the exception of a few bright red specks of the red chile that stand out from time to time as you fold the spoon through it. Keeping in line with its texture, the overall aroma could also be described as a hearty soup or stew, with a bit of the scent of chiles coming forth.
The flavors of green chile and tomato are pretty immediate, as well as a bit of salty onion and garlic, but none of them overpowers the other too much. There is a noted smokey component to this, but it plays in the background. The heat level is fairly mild to start with, but after you get a few spoons full of it in you, the signs of capsaicin become a little more apparent, and eventually ramp this up to the Medium level. If you like Green Chiles, this will definitely be up your alley, but I’m a bit conflicted with it as a salsa in the “chip and dip” arena based on its consistency. It has a nice, simple and tasty flavor profile to it, but all that comes to mind is cooking with it, more than using it on its own. It reminds be to some degree of a sauce style in Mexico called Ranchero sauce, most popular via the dish Huevos Rancheros, in which it’s served on top of fried eggs, but the proportions of chile to tomato gets flipped around. I’ll rate it as Nice, but I’ll put it out there that you may really want to get this more for culinary experimentation than as a dip for chips. The thought of how easy it would be to warm this up in a small pot, add some grilled chicken and tortilla chips pieces could pretty much make for an easy meal for those cooking for one, and the reference to huevos rancheros shouldn’t be taken lightly, as this would work quite well as the New Mexican version of it.