Need a braising sauce for a pork shoulder? This salsa is on it. Need a labor-light supper that involves merely heating things up? Throw this salsa in a slow cooker with chicken thighs for 3 to 4 hours. Did your local grocery store stop carrying the salsa morita that had the power to right all wrongs in your life, no matter how sad or pathetic you were feeling? This salsa will (almost) get that job done.

We've got a lot of words about the magical combo of tomatillos, chiles, and garlic, but we'll get right to the recipe after only a few sentences. First, this sauce is tangy and spicy. You dial the heat up or back with more or less peppers, or even cutting out the seeds and membranes of the peppers. It's also got a good roasty flavor, but if you want less of that, flash boil your tomatillos instead of roasting them and saute the peppers and garlic whole to mellow out their intensity. Finally, we like to season with salt and sugar for balance, but the amounts you'll need will largely depend on your tastes and your ingredients. A teaspoon is generally a good place to start. 

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Makes approximately 2 cups

5-6 medium tomatillos, papery skins peeled and skin washed
1-2 serrano peppers (see above for adjusting for heat level)
2-3 cloves garlic
salt and sugar to taste
1-2 Tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice

Line a cast iron pan with aluminum foil and set over medium high heat. Slice the tomatillos in half (root to tip) and place in the pan, skin side down. Add the garlic and serrano peppers and roast until dark and blistered. Flip it all over. When roasting on the cut side, the tomatillos will stick a little. Be sure to let them roast long enough to form a crust so they stick less. 

When everything is good and charred, add it all to a blender or food processor. If there is juice in the pan, carefully fold up the aluminum foil to save it and dump that into the blender as well. Add a teaspoon of salt and pulse. Then, with the machine running, add water to thin it all out to the consistency you like. Now start tasting and seasoning with the salt and sugar to taste.

If you're going to use the salsa for dipping of chips, add some fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. If you're using it as a braise, season it a little more (stronger flavors work best with braises) and set aside. If you want to turn this already kick-ass fresh salsa into something richer and smokier, keep reading.

Salsa Morita
Makes approximately 2 cups

Roasted tomatillo salsa (recipe above)
Dried morita chile pods (amount depends on heat preference. We like using at least 7-10 chiles for a pretty spicy salsa that can only be described as powerful.)

Place the dried chile pods in a bowl and cover with boiling water until soft. Drain. Using a small, sharp knife, remove the stems, seeds, and membrane inside. It's easiest to do this by scraping out the inside of the chile. Be careful not to wipe your face during this process (you could wear gloves, but we find that a little too cumbersome for handling chiles).

Prepare the tomatillo salsa above. Before the seasoning step, begin adding chiles one by one, tasting for preferred heat and flavor after each one is blended in. Then season with salt and sugar, adding fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. 

This salsa also serves as a good braise, especially for chicken. We like to add it to a slow cooker with chicken thighs (using enough salsa to get the meat mostly covered). This makes a great filling for tacos and tortas.