Vinagreta de cebolla
When we were first experimenting with cochinita pibil, we found a recipe including this salsa of pickled purple onion, and we loved it. The simpler recipe of blanched onions in bitter orange juice seems to be more typical in Yucatan. But vinagreta de cebolla is still our favourite. Spicy, and slightly smoky from the charred habaneros; with the aroma of allspice and oregano. It’s quintessentially Caribbean, and ideal for pulled pork. It’s so good, we find ourselves eating it by the spoonful.
— Brad and Eliseo
The vinagreta is very similar to chimichurri, and you can use it the same way. It’s little more than finely chopped onions in vinegar and oil, with a little chili and other seasoning. The only trick is chopping the onions fine enough. As close as you can get them to little cubes, the better.
Before you try making this, though, read the section on habaneros. Especially if you’ve never worked with them before, they can cause you a lot of pain.
– 3 large purple onions
– 2 bulbs of garlic
– 2 tsp (10ml) allspice, ground (~ 20 berries)
– 1 tsp dry oregano
– enough red-wine vinegar to cover the chopped onion
– 1/2 cup (120ml) olive oil (or more to taste)
– 6-8 habaneros
– salt to taste (~2 tsp)
– 6 bay leaves, roughly torn (fresh if possible)
– 6 allspice leaves, roughly torn
Finely chop the onions, into 1/4in (5mm) dice, if possible. The salsa is almost as much about texture as taste, so don’t rush this step. The easiest way to ensure that the dicing is even, is to first slice the onion into thin rings, then cut these into thin strips, and then cut the strips crossways. Use a sharp knife.
Next, flame roast the habaneros and the whole heads of garlic (it’s better to soak the garlic in water for ten minutes or so, first). Clean the garlic, but leave the char on the habaneros — you want the smokey flavour. Clean the stem, seeds and white inner tissue from the habaneros. Carefully! Again, if you haven’t read the section on habaneros, do so. Wash the cutting board thoroughly with cold water and soap.
Finely chop the habanero and garlic. Add them to the onion, with the bay leaf and allspice leaves, and the dried oregano. If you haven’t ground the allspice, do so, and add it to the onions. Add just enough vinegar that the onion is almost covered. Salt to taste. Add the oil, and stir through.
Let the onions sit for at least an hour before serving. This salsa keeps in the fridge very well for at least a week.