Someday I’m going to find a spot in my tiny yard to grow tomatillos. A big, gangly, tangled green jungle so we can have as much green salsa as we could possibly want. In the meantime, we just keep buying big bags of them at the farmer’s market – at least until the farmers run out.
When I first discovered tomatillos, I was annoyed at their stickiness and not really sure what to do with them. Now I rather enjoy the process of peeling off the papery husks and rinsing off the gummy coating. Like shelling beans, it can be a contemplative activity. And if you do a few extra pounds while you’re at it, you can toss the cleaned tomatillos into a bag and put them in the freezer for later.
And as for what to do with them, my favorite recipe (so far) is Rick Bayless’ Roasted Tomatillo & Serrano Salsa, from his book Mexican Kitchen. It’s not that different from a traditional salsa verde, where you generally boil the tomatillos and puree them with onion. But in this version, you use the broiler to give the tomatillos and peppers some char before blending and simmering. See below for the recipe, it’s a good one.
Once you have your salsa, you have many options. You could set it out as a dip, of course, but I think it’s especially good cooked with fish (especially a delicate white fish like sole), chicken or pork.
The first time we made it this season, we used it to sauce a panful of enchiladas that had been stuffed with refried beans flavored with chorizo, and that worked really, really well. Is there anything more comforting than a pan of enchiladas and some good sour cream? Not to mention the avocado, cilantro and chopped ripe tomatoes…
The following week, I cubed a pork roast, seared it, and simmered it in the tomatillo salsa. We ate that with soft corn tortillas and salty cotija cheese. Not very showy, but it doesn’t really need to be.
The leftover salsa – what there was of it – is in the freezer waiting for a white bean chili. Plus all those frozen tomatillos. I wish I had more room in the freezer.
Roasted Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa
adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen
- 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
- 3 serrano or 4 jalapeno chiles (depending on heat), stemmed
- olive oil or lard
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 cups chicken or other meat broth
- handful of chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat the broiler. Spread out the cleaned tomatillos and peppers on a baking sheet (lining it with foil is very helpful), and broil for five minutes. Turn everything over and broil another five, or until they are beginning to blacken and bubble. Set aside.
Saute the onion in a spoonful of oil in a wide skillet. Cook until soft and beginning to color. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two, then scrape it all into a food processor. Add the tomatillos and peppers and any juices from the pan. Puree. Depending on what you’re using it for, you can make it very smooth or leave it a bit chunky.
Heat a bit more oil in the skillet, then add all the puree and let it sizzle for a minute. Add the broth, bring the sauce to a simmer and let it reduce for ten minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Taste for salt. Make some tacos.