Salsa. It’ s not just for chips.
This holds especially true for excellent salsa. Like the tangy, fresh, aromatic salsas (fresca, ranchera, tomatillo, habanero) made by Chef Lucero Martinez. She makes salsas to drape over enchiladas, baked fish or chicken, and slather over chilaquiles, scrambled eggs or her homespun tamales.
Martinez knows of what she speaks: She spent years running the kitchen of Maestro Plácido Domingo’s Mexican restaurant, Pámpano in NYC, has cooked at the James Beard House and, in 2015, competed on the Food Network’s pressure-cooker cooking show, Chopped. More importantly, the Mexico City native spent many Sundays of her childhood cooking traditional sauces, salsas and dishes alongside her mother, aunts and cousins.
“My grandfather lived in a hacienda 3 hours north of Mexico City,” says Martinez. “He harvested poblano peppers, corn, beans, cactus, prickly pear and even Mezcal.” ”We were surrounded by dried peppers so Mole sauce was a big thing in the family kitchen,” she says. Mole is a complicated sauce with many, many layers of ingredients “so it was a good thing I had so many cousins – up to 21 – helping out in the kitchen.” She remembers the elders’ warning all the cousins about over-roasting the peppers lest they taste “like bitter charcoal instead of smoky chocolate.”