A thick, spicy, nutty salsa that hails from the state of Veracruz in Mexico, salsa macha is great atop tostados, tacos, and many other things (I first ate it tossed in a butternut squash salad).
A few notes: the salsa macha can be made 1 week ahead (cover and chill it). The poached chicken can be prepared in advance, then re-warmed before serving. Alternatively, you can substitute it with 3 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken. —EmilyC
1 1/2 pounds
boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional aromatics: any combination of sliced onion; sliced lime; smashed garlic clove; bay leaf; cilantro stems; peppercorns
small bunch of asparagus (about 1/2 pound), tough ends trimmed
to 4 large radishes, thinly sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
small (about 6-inch) corn tortillas
vegetable oil, for frying tortillas (or how much ever it takes to reach 1/4-inch in depth)
To poach chicken: add chicken to large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and aromatics (if using). Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, then lower heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Remove chicken from broth and let rest. Once cool enough to handle, shred or thinly slice. Toss the chicken with salsa macha, starting with a few tablespoons and drizzling in more, a little at a time, until evenly coated.
To make asparagus and radish slaw: trim the tough ends working with 1 asparagus spear at a time, use a vegetable peeler to shave the spears lengthwise into long, thin ribbons. Transfer the shaved asparagus to a bowl (including the tips); add radishes. Squeeze some lime juice over the asparagus and radishes, then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss gently. Adjust seasoning and acidity, to taste.
To prepare tortillas: Meanwhile, pour oil into a small skillet to 1/4-inch depth. Heat over medium heat until hot. Working one at a time, fry tortillas until crisp, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to paper towels.
To assemble: Smear a little salsa macha on each tortilla, then top with chicken, asparagus-radish slaw, then queso fresco and cilantro. Drizzle more of the salsa macha over the top of each tostada. Serve with lime wedges and salsa macha on the side.
For salsa macha:
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it’s hot, but not smoking. Add the garlic cloves, and fry for about one minute, or until they start to turn golden. Add the chiles and sunflower seeds, and stir and fry for about 1 to 2 minutes; be careful that the oil doesn’t get too hot, which will cause the chiles to burn and turn bitter (the oil should sizzle but not sputter or smoke). Remove from heat, add oregano, and let cool for about 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer the skillet’s contents into the jar of a blender.
Add the salt and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Blend until smooth, gradually increasing speed from low to high. Taste, and add more salt and vinegar (you want the tang of the vinegar to balance the richness of the chiles), and a few pinches of brown sugar, if needed, to round out the flavors. Pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid, let cool, and refrigerate if not using right away.