Many recipes for salsa, sauces, and numerous other applications require that the skins be removed from chilies and tomatoes before they are used in a recipe at hand. This is a dilemma that requires a short discussion about methods, applications, and results. Don’t be discouraged! It is not as complicated as it sounds, and once you have done it a few times it will settle into your kitchen repertoire of procedures.
Chilies are straight forward; flame roasting, or broiling, releases the skin and imparts a subtle smoky flavor in the process.
Tomatoes, on the other hand, require specific methods for charring, broiling , or roasting that depends on the quality, ripening, and size of the tomatoes.
If you are fortunate enough to have tomatoes growing in your garden, or from a local farmer, you have the advantage of using vine ripened fruit at it’s peek of flavor, but unfortunately they are rarely available in commercial markets. Commercial tomatoes are picked before they are ripe to extend their life during shipping. While they may look ripe, red, and beautiful, their flavor is often lackluster in depth and sweetness. If this is your only option, good quality canned tomatoes might be a good alternative choice.
Vine ripened tomatoes can be either grilled, flame roasted, or broiled with excellent results.
Commercial tomatoes are best slow roasted in the oven and finished under the broiler until well charred and cooked through.
Flame Roasting Chilies and Vine Ripened Tomatoes:
Place a rack directly over the flame on the stove top, or on the BBQ grill, and char, tuning often to blister all sides.
Place the charred chilies and tomatoes in a bowl and seal the top with plastic film and set aside to sweat until cool enough to handle. The skin will have released from the flesh and easy to slip off.
Roasting Commercial Tomatoes:
Core the tomatoes and place on a rack set over a baking sheet lined with foil and roast at 325F/165C for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours (depending on the size of the tomatoes), then place under the broiler and broil for about 30 minutes, turning once at the 15 minute point. The skin should be charred, although it need not be uniform. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and proceed with your recipe at hand.
Cherry Tomatoes lend themselves to slow roasting that develops a deep rich sweetness and juicy texture. (See Roasted Cherry Tomatoes)