Salsa is serious business at Pez Cantina, on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. Chef-owner Bret Thompson kicks off his menu there with a list of eight salsas, including this dark, fiery blend of chiles and peanuts. It has an intensity that rises up slowly. It demands attention but there’s enough balance to keep from torching everything in its path. If the chiles get too dark as they cook in the oil, the salsa will be bitter. So watch carefully and remove the chiles as they begin to darken. If you get it just right, you’ll end up with an unusually complex salsa. Serve it with chips and shots of mezcal—or drizzle it over grilled steak.
Dry Chile Chunky Peanut Salsa
*Makes about 1½ cups
- 1 cup Canola oil
- 2 oz Guajillo chile, stemmed and seeded
- 1 oz Chile de arbol, stemmed and seeded
- ¼ cup Shelled raw peanuts
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
In a medium saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the chiles and cook until they begin to turn brown, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the chiles or the salsa will be bitter.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the chiles to a blender. Add the peanuts to the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peanuts to a small bowl.
Add the hot oil to the blender with the chiles and puree until smooth, about one minute. Add the peanuts to the blender and pulse just until the peanuts are coarsely ground.
Transfer to a small serving bowl and let cool before serving.
Jan Newberry has been writing about food for more than 25 years. She was the food and wine editor of San Francisco magazine from 2000 until 2012, and her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Bon Appétit. She is the co-author of several cookbooks, including The Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook, Bar Tartine and the forthcoming Gjelina.