Mild, Medium or Hot?
In Walla Walla, WA., we have what seems like endless choices when it comes to Mexican food. I’m not taking about your average Mexican restaurants. I’m taking about truly outstanding Mexican food. There are numerous brick and mortar establishments and countless Taco Trucks dotting the valley. Fresh, local tortillas and chips are available at every grocery store. I don’t have a bad thing to say about any one of them…except Taco Bell, but that really isn’t Mexican food anyway.
My favorite places tend to be the Taco Trucks, and a big reason is the variety of salsa or a fresh Pico de Gallo. When asked if I would prefer the ‘mild, medium or hot’ I enthusiastically say “One of each!”. There is generally a mild Tomato salsa, a tangy Tomatillo, a Salsa Picante with a bit more heat or a creamy Jalapeno that can range from hot to fiery. All of them are delicious. All of them are unique. I will often throw back ‘shots’ of salsa if there are leftovers. I just can’t get enough.
…Because one salsa is never enough I wanted to experiment with several. After all…variety is the spice of life! I decided to use the Excalibur ‘Salsa Brat’ seasoning based on the many positive reviews and suggestions by Walton’s staff. This will be my base for all of the following pairing suggestions.
I don’t have exact recipes for any of these (yet). Cooking, IMO is all about improvisation and personal taste. Throw some stuff together, take notes and adjust if need be. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Come on in, the water is fine!
- Excalibur Salsa Bratwurst Seasoning: This is a great place to start. The seasoning when used at recommended amounts adds a mild salsa flavor with hints of tomato, onion and pepper but doesn’t have much heat to speak of. This blend is going to please the masses and is unlikely to draw complaints from even the pickiest eater. It’s simply good. The addition of high temp cheese would be a welcome adjunct.
2. Salsa Brat + Fresh Pico de Gallo: Wow! Talk about a punch of flavor! Subtle flavors are out the window on this one. The addition of fresh Roma Tomatoes, Onion, Cilantro, Jalapeno and a squeeze of Lime highlight Excalibur seasonings quite well. The lime juice adds a clean and bright flavor to each of the ingredients and lets each one shine through…especially the cilantro.
3. Salsa Brat + Hatch Chile Salsa: Hatch Chiles are from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico and they are amazing. My Hatch Chile salsa consists of Chiles, Walla Walla Sweet Onions, Garlic, Cumin, Cilantro, fresh Lime juice with salt & pepper to taste. (If memory serves me right)
I took the base Salsa Brat mix and added a generous amount of salsa. Once again the lime really lets the flavors shine. The brats are tangy with quite a noticeable bump in heat . These are quite tasty! You are immediately met with an earthy and vegetive, green pepper flavor which leaves enough room for the garlic and onion finishing with a hint of cumin and cilantro. If I wasn’t running low on my salsa stash I would be making these again at my next opportunity. I have about 7-8 months before the peppers are in season again so I’ll just have to be patient…something I’m not known for.
4. Salsa Brat + Salsa Macha: These turned out to be my favorite of all. I am new to Salsa Macha and I would assume that goes for many people. I stumbled upon this variety of salsa after an accidental encounter with the TV Show ‘Pati’s Mexican Table’. My best description of this salsa is that it is a deep fried Chile, Peanut and Sesame blend…yes, peanuts! I’ve never heard of such a thing but the ingredients were intriguing and made sense so I gave it a go.
You will want a quality dried chipotle for this salsa. Look for a product that maintains good color, a leathery texture and a ripened raisin like aroma that is good and smoky.
Salsas tend to be regional and vary by available product and personal taste. My version of Pati’s recipe has a bit more vinegar, salt and brown sugar than was called for as well as the addition of Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a double portion of garlic. I also substituted grape seed oil for the olive oil because it has a milder flavor and a higher smoking point. It is important to note that the peanuts, pepitas and sesame seeds be raw and unroasted as they would burn in the oil. Use Google to find a recipe…it might just change the way you think about salsa.
The Salsa Macha brats were noticeably darker than all of the others. The salsa itself has an almost inky deep reddish brown hue with orange highlights from the oil. It’s like a beautiful sunburst Fender Telecaster in liquid form. Guitar geeks may get the reference…for those that don’t, just imagine a totally rad sunset in the peak of Autumn color.
These brats have plenty heat but it’s not overpowering. The chipotles add an intense earthiness with a hint of raisin and deep Chile flavor. I think I could detect more of the peanut flavor of these in the brats vs. the salsa on its own. Acid brightens any dish and the distilled vinegar does the job in this one. The brown sugar doesn’t add much sweetness but it rounds everything out and creates balance. I’ve used this on chicken thighs, breasts, taco meat and as a topping…it’s simply outstanding in so many ways.
I would love nothing more than to destroy a bag of fresh corn chips and a copious amount of Pico de Gallo but as I walk the tightrope of diet and indulgence I will settle on a few of my favorite ‘salsa’ bratwursts.