Tight Ass Tuesday: I Didn't Need These Lips Anyway

HEY YOU! Have you entered the Jamie Oliver giveaway yet?

I wussed out on my own event last week, because I wasn’t sufficiently Abilified. I’m now partway through the introductory phase of Abilification and that, coupled with tranqs – I’m not an addict but goddamn, Valium is some good shit – means feeling good enough to take on these black bean and vidalia quesadillas with green SALSA DE LA MUERTE.

Thank god I like milk. Do you think this salsa is a joke? Because IT IS NOT and it will cut you. No, really. It’s like a laser, it’ll slice right through your palate like a plastic knife through cream cheese that you accidentally left on the counter for six hours.

It burns worse than a Health Care Town Hall Meetings (I assume a lot of acid is thrown at these? I haven’t seen any, but that’s what it sounds like.), but it also is remarkably fresh and flavorful. One might say that it “Hurts So Good,” if one were inclined to say such things, which I am NOT.

I’d made a roasted tomatillo-jalapeño salsa last September that did it’s damnedest to do me in; it verged on impossible to eat and required lots of chugging milk directly from the carton with no shame, only sweet relief. I learned afterward that roasting chiles with seeds and ribs intact is not simple roasting, it is an alchemical act that turns the ordinarily sweet flesh of the chile into gold ingots a deadly firebomb. I’d planned on using that same theory for this month’s First Tuesday, in which July’s Smugness Prize winner (I don’t remember who, am I supposed to know every little detail? I have a life, you know.) commanded us to make the hottest food we could stand.

This time, I omitted the tomatillos so there would be nothing to mitigate the burn. I figured I could take it; I mean, I didn’t actually die of anything last time.

I also had fresh chiles from the backyard this time around, which couldn’t hurt. I took a handful of jalapeños and the single anaheim chile my anaheim plant managed, after fighting the good fight, to produce and threw them into a cast iron skillet. I’d have roasted them and made the quesadillas on the grill, but it’s so humid here that wading through the air to get to the grill takes too much energy.

I’d been planning on just throwing some black beans into the quesadillas until I remembered the vidalia onions in the fridge. I took one, cut it into fat rings and threw those into the pan as well. After another few minutes, I separated a head of the hardneck garlic I just got at the farmer’s market and put the cloves in as well. I spent the next five minutes looking around the kitchen for more things to put in the pan. Luckily, no further inspiration hit me and I didn’t throw in any rice pudding or a lemon or a piece of chalk.

The onion seared and the chile skins sizzled and popped while Brian and I discussed the cost of front-row tickets to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden (Springsteen with E Street, Simon AND Garfunkel, Simon alone, Crosby Stills and Nash and Stevie Fucking Wonder) ($6000+) and held a point/counterpoint along the lines of “This Concert is Fricking BANANAS” vs. “Yes, I’d Like to Go But I’d Also Really Like to Hang on to Both Kidneys, So Keep Your Damn Rabbis Away From Me.”

FYI, we both ended up coming down on the side of keeping kidneys.

I took the browned onions out after three or four minutes a side and left the chiles in until the skins were blistered. I left them, covered, to cool while I peeled the garlic and then crushed the shit out of everything in the molcajete, keeping about half the chile seeds.  Do you have one of these? You should get one and pound the shit out of something in it. Highly therapeutic, and good for the forearms.

I mixed the chile-garlic paste with a little olive oil, some lime juice and a big handful of cilantro and let it sit during quesadilla construction.

Vegetarians, I know this was a veg-friendly recipe up to now but you’ll want to skip this part (if you’re not already skipping the whole blog):

In the same cast iron skillet but over lower heat I added a little bacon fat. The New Best Recipe says butter, but as much I trust them I just can’t believe that a quesadilla can’t be improved by bacon fat. Which is easily explainable, really, because it’s fat that comes from BACON. The defense rests.

I laid a ginormo flour tortilla in the pan and added cheese – onion – black beans – cheese before topping with another tortilla. If I’d spent as much time thinking about the construction as I did about the whole kidney thing I probably would have just folded the giant tortilla, but I didn’t, requiring me to flip the quesadilla with a giant cake layer-separator. Whatever, cheese melts either way.

Having learned my lesson last time, I dug some sour cream out of the back of the fridge to mitigate the SALSA DE LA MUERTA and went easier on the salsa.

The tomatillo salsa was a Rick Bayless recipe from a Smackdown; I don’t want to compare myself to Bayless (who, judging from the old photos they showed of him on Top Chef Masters two weeks ago, was and possibly still is a giant pothead, which only makes me like him more), but this salsa was excellent. It was hot, yes – Brian ate a forkful plain and did, in fact, have to run for the milk carton with tears in his eyes – but with the quesadillas and a good dollop of sour cream, was incredibly flavorful. The mix of chiles gave it sweetness along with the the heat, while cilantro freshens everything it touches.

Unless you’re one of those freak anti-cilantro people who thinks it tastes like soap, in which case it destroys everything it touches and also I’m not sure if we’re friends any more.

Damage: Olive oil, garlic, onions, salt, bacon fat: staples.  Chiles: free. (You want to quibble? Grow your own damn chiles. You can do it in a pot, don’t talk back.) Tortillas: $1. Cheese: $2.32. Black beans:  $0.42. Lime: $0.78. Total: $4.53, or $2.27 per person.

Roasted Green Chile SALSA DE LA MUERTA
Makes about half a cup, but it doesn’t take much
2 anaheim chiles
8-10 jalapeños (depending on size)
6 large cloves of garlic, skin on
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. olive oil
kosher salt

Roast all the chiles until the skins are blistered and blackened. You can do this in a variety of ways: on a grill, under the broiler, directly over a gas range (if the peppers are big enough) or in a smoking-hot cast-iron skillet (what I did). Toss the garlic cloves in as well, and keep ’em moving around so they don’t scorch, because yuck. Take the garlic out when it starts to color; let sit out to cool for a few minutes, peel, and dice roughly.

When the chiles are blackened all over, remove them to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap; this will steam them a little and ease peeling. After 5 minutes, remove them and peel the larger chiles; I don’t bother with the wee ones. Seed about half the chiles – more if you want more heat, less if you’re weak.

If you have a molcajete or mortar and pestle, haul it out now. Add the garlic and chiles, sprinkle them with a few pinches of salt and pound away until you have a rough puree. You could also do this in a little food processor, or just mince everything together with a good knife.

Scrape the puree into a bowl.  Add the cilantro, lime juice and olive oil and combine well.  Serve immediately, or refridgerate for a day. Let come to room temp before eating so you don’t blunt the flavor with cold.

13 thoughts on “Tight Ass Tuesday: I Didn't Need These Lips Anyway

  1. The salsa sounds killer; my ability to stomach hot has declined dramatically in the past few years, so I’d have to give the salsa a pass, I think. But killer quesadillas? Throw some pineapple in there. I’m not sure why, but it works.

  2. Actually, I DO have a big-ass mocajete that my sister lugged in her carry-on from Tucson for me. I have yet to use it however, because I think I have to season it or something first. I’d better get on that, because if I still haven’t used the thing by her next visit, after all the heavy lifting and explaining to airport security she did to get it here, she’ll probably bash my head in with it.

  3. My little blonde-haired, blue-eyed cherub of a brother likes heat. A lot. To the point where every time we go to a Thai or Indian restaurant, he spends a solid 5 minutes negotiating with the waitstaff to give him “hot. Not white boy hot. REAL hot.” They take one look at him and decide he’s too white for such heat. But they bring it anyway, and then he eats it anyway, and he loves it.

    So this might be going onto his Thanksgiving dinner somewhere.

    Where the hell do you live that limes are $.78? Around here they’re MAYBE a quarter. MAYBE. I feel like you’re just giving the trophy to Dark Side of the Fridge.

  4. JD, the quesadilla themselves were no big whoop. well, except for the vidalias. that was a burst of random inspiration.

    erika, more importantly, you have a kitchen with space for a quesadilla maker, and for that i am envious.

    syd, take 2.

    kay, i’m going to have to sit with the pineapple idea for a while. you’re talking to someone for whom anything other than plain cheese or carne asada is a leap.

    kristen, hot, yet. but GOOD. if you don’t overkill on it, you can actually taste it, and it’s wonderful.

    kristin, you really, really don’t want to get hit in the head with one. not that i would know, or that i keep mine on a high shelf that i can barely reach.

    kristie, i used 2 limes; they were puny and juiceless. and i can’t wait to see how you incorporate this into t’giving.

    dark side is now out of the running for the next three months, so the rest of us have time to practice.

  5. 1) quasi-vegetarian weighing in on not skipping the blog.
    2) tomatillos falling like frogs from the sky in Kitchen Garden From Hell. Will make originally posted firebomb salsa pronto and feed it to the kids. Bwahahahaha.

  6. As one of those anti-cilantro freaks, I would just like to say that I’m sorry we can’t be friends. It does indeed taste like soap to me, exactly like soap. It invades the entire dish with foulness; even a few leaves placed on top as a garnish destroy at least the top third of the dish for me. Cilantro is the demonic excreta of Satan, and I can only pray that some louse will come and do for cilantro what phylloxera did for grapes.

  7. I would very much like to have some Valium and some of these quesadillas. Both would do me a world of good at the moment, dealing with ornery teenagers.
    Extra salsa please…

  8. Sorry Michelle, I’m with Rachel on this one. You had me up until the cilantro. I know, it’s not authentic unless you’ve ruined a perfectly good dish by adding that shit, but damn, IT TASTES LIKE FUCKING SOAP!!!

    Ok, I feel much better now. I really needed that. Sorry we can’t be friends.

  9. Oh my god, that sauce sound spicy. I may be to weak for it. I love quesadillas though so I think I’ll try. Some guacamole sounds like it would be good with this too.

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