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Salsa Roja

3 dried New Mexico, pasilla, guajillo, or ancho chiles
3 dried serrano, chile arbol, or Thai bird chiles
3 medium cloves garlic, separated with skins left on

Heat a large flat griddle or skillet over high heat. Place the
chiles on the dry skillet, along with the garlic. Check them every
few minutes, looking for brown spots as they toast on the dry
griddle, turn both the chiles and the garlic cloves, keeping an
eye on the color and more importantly on the aroma. When the scent
changes and takes on a toasty, rich character, they're done. Remove
them from heat and let them cool for a few seconds.

When cool enough to handle (the peppers cool more quickly than the
garlic, which in turn takes longer to cook), pull out the stems,
veins, seeds and placentas from the chiles. Tear the skins into
medium-sized chunks and place them in a small bowl. Pour boiling
water over them just to cover, then place a smaller bowl or saucer
over the peppers to keep them immersed in the water. Let soak for
30 minutes.

After the peppers have had time to soak well, pour the peppers and
water into a blender. Peel the skins off the garlic cloves (which
should smell sweet, smoky and wonderful in their own right) and
drop them into the blender as well. Puree thoroughly. The sauce
will be chunky. If desired, strain it through a wire strainer to
get the larger pieces of the skin out of the mixture. Taste it,
add salt and serve immediately.


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