Sunday, September 4, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

One of my coworkers and I have somewhat of an obsession with tomatillos. Probably like most people who enjoy tomatillos, we both mainly use them for salsa, but I've been searching for new recipes with a lot more fervor lately. But as great as it is to get creative, it's always good to start with the basics, and where better to start for Mexican recipes than the incomparable Rick Bayless.

Contrary to what their name may lead you to believe, tomatillos are members of the nightshade family and closely related to gooseberries, not tomatoes. Tomatillos are a staple in Mexican cuisine and used in many of the same applications as tomatoes, both raw and roasted. While raw tomatillos are bright and fresh, roasted tomatillos are smoky and smooth with just an acidic bite. Both forms are delicious and you can't beat the ease of fresh tomatillo salsa (blend tomatillos, garlic, and hot chiles in a food processor, add chopped onion, cilantro, and salt to taste), most of the time I think it's worth it to roast the ingredients. You'll definitely get hungry and impatient as the aroma of the roasting tomatillos, garlic, and peppers wafts through the house, but it'll all be worth it when you can load up some tortilla chips and dig in. (For what it's worth, my favorite tortilla chips are Frontera brand, Rick Bayless' company). The roasted salsa also holds up longer in the fridge than the fresh version if you have enough self-control not to eat an entire batch in a day or two. And if you're generous enough not to want to keep it all for yourself, take this simple but scrumptious salsa to your Labor Day cookout or football game and please your friends and family with this likely unfamiliar ingredient.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
from Rick Bayless
makes about 1 cup

8 ounces (3 to 4 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (1 or 2 serranos or 1 jalapeƱos), stemmed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 sprigs of fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off), roughly chopped
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped

1. Roast the tomatillos, chile(s) and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until blotchy black and softening (they’ll be turning from lime green to olive), about 5 minutes.  Flip them over and roast the other side.  Cool, then transfer everything to a blender, including all the delicious juice the tomatillos have exuded during roasting. Add the cilantro and 1/4 cup water, then blend to a coarse puree. Scoop into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove excess moisture.  Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually 1/2 teaspoon.

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