Tomatillos may be somewhat alarming if you have no clue what they are, but chances are if you have sampled Salsa Verde at a Mexican restaurant, you’ve eaten tomatillos.
Also known as the Mexican Husk tomato, tomatillos have an exterior paper-like covering and they shouldn’t be confused with green tomatoes, as tomatillos have a sweet-tart, almost lemony-apple taste that has absolutely no substitute in the flavor department. And most definitely you can’t replace them in a dish with green tomatoes. After the husk is removed, their skin is a little sticky and they should be rinsed in cold water.
Not all tomatillos were created green. Although rare, there is also a variety of purplish tomatillo and if can find them, they’re even sweeter. When purchasing tomatillos, ensure that they are as small as possible as the larger ones tend to be somewhat bitter.
Cooking with tomatillos is brilliantly easy and once you start, you’ll be wondering why you waited so long. When they are pan-roasted with other vegetables, such as onion, garlic, poblano peppers and jalapeños, they are the perfect addition to any Tex-Mex dish, whether you’re making salsa to go with tortilla chips, a “sauce” to roast your meats/fish or finish your dish with Mexican flair, you’ll be killing it. There’s a good chance guests and family will think they are eating at one of the best restaurants South of the Border
Now that you have the 411, unleash your tomatillo with these succulent recipes. Even though they may be minimalistic, in their simplicity they will label you a rock star in the kitchen.
CHAR-GRILLED OVEN ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH TOMATILLO SALSA
Thighs are best here, as breasts will dry out.
8-10 chicken thighs, skins removed, washed and patted dry
3 tomatillos – husks removed, washed and left whole
1 onion – skin removed, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 head of garlic – cloves separated, skins on
1 poblano – seeds removed and cut in half
½ jalapeño – seeds removed
¼ cup of sherry vinegar
1 TBSP agave syrup
1 TSP ground cumin
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 cup of chopped basil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Mexican Crema or sour cream
HEAT OVEN TO 400F
In a cookie sheet lined with foil add the tomatillos, poblano, jalapeño, onion, garlic cloves and drizzle everything with olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast till soft- about 45 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even charring.
When cool enough to handle, pop the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and add all the roasted veggies into a blender and blitz with a drizzle of olive oil, the sherry vinegar, agave syrup, cilantro, basil, salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Salt and pepper the chicken and drizzle with some olive oil. Add some of the roasted salsa on the bottom of the pan and roast thighs in a 400F oven for about 50-55 minutes, turning pieces half way through the roasting.
Place the roasted chicken on a platter, top with remaining warm tomatillo sauce and garnish with chopped cilantro, Mexican crema and the chopped pistachios.
SHRIMP STREET TACOS WITH WARM TOMATILLO SALSA
Street tacos are small, two-bite wonders that are beyond drool worthy. If you’ve never had them, you haven’t lived. Some food street trucks are killing it in the taco department and if you find one in your area, I seriously encourage you to hunt them down. Once you make this recipe for shrimp street tacos, your guests and family will be asking for Taco Tuesday every week!
3 tomatillos – husks removed and washed and cut into quarters
1 head of garlic, cut into two halves
1 medium onion – quartered
1 poblano pepper – seeds removed and rough chopped
1 cup of chicken stock
1 TSP of ground cumin
1 TSP sugar
¼ cup of fresh orange or tangerine juice
½ cup of chopped cilantro
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice and 1 TBSP of lemon zest
1 bay leaf
½ TSP Ancho chili powder
½ TSP Anaheim chili powder
¼ TSP Chipotle powder
¼ TSP of paprika
½ TSP garlic powder
½ TSP onion powder
½ TSP of Mexican oregano
½ cup of APF – all-purpose flour
Kosher salt fresh cracked pepper
Cotija cheese for garnish
Chopped cilantro for garnish
¼ cup of Mexican crema
Small corn tortillas
PICO DE GALLO
Also known as Salsa Fresca in some restaurants, it’s one of the easiest to prepare.
3 Roma tomatoes – chopped and placed in a bowl
½ jalapeño – seeds removed and chopped
3 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
½ red onion
Pinch of salt
Juice of 1 lime
Place all the ingredients in a bowl, add the salt and the lime juice and toss well with a spoon. Set aside – better made at least 1 hour before serving.
Simmer the tomatillos, tomato, poblano, onion and garlic in the chicken broth with the bay leaf until everything is soft. Drain over a colander, removing the bay leaf and reserving the stock. Place the cooked veggies in a blender (squeezing the garlic out of their skins), add salt, pepper, cumin and lemon zest with 1 TBSP of lemon juice, chopped cilantro, orange juice and a small amount of the chicken stock where the veggies have cooked. Blend to a smooth puree. Check for seasonings and keep warm.
In a bowl, whisk some APF together with the ground chili powders, paprika, oregano, garlic and onion powder, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Dredge the shrimp and shake excess.
Heat about 4-5 TBSP of vegetable oil and fry the shrimp till golden brown and crispy.
Add of the tomatillo salsa on the corn tortilla, place the shrimp on top add some shredded red cabbage and some of the Pico de Gallo. Finish with Mexican crema, some thinly sliced radishes, Cotija cheese, more cilantro and serve with fresh lime wedges.
ROASTED SEA BASS WITH TOMATILLO SAUCE
You can use cod or any white fish for this dish if you want to substitute or can’t find sea bass.
PREHEAT OVEN 450F
4 pieces sea bass fillets – about 1½“ thick – about 6 ounces each
3 green tomatillos – husk removed and washed
½ head of garlic – cut in half and left whole
1 onion – skin removed and cut into quarters
1 poblano pepper – left whole
1 jalapeño – cut in half and seeds removed
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of sugar
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Olive oil – about 2-3 TBSP
Bunch of fresh cilantro – washed and stems removed
1 TSP ground cumin
On a cookie sheet lined with foil add the tomatillos, jalapeño, poblano, garlic and onion quarters. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast till veggies are charred and soft about 45 minutes.
Place the roasted veggies (having squeezed out the roasted garlic cloves) in a blender. Add salt and fresh cracked pepper, cilantro, the lime juice, a pinch of sugar, the avocado and puree until soft, adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to emulsify.
Salt and pepper the fish, sprinkle with both sides with some ground cumin and olive oil and roast fish until opaque in the center and it flakes about 12 minutes.
To serve, place the tomatillo sauce on a serving plate, add some roasted corn and green asparagus and the fish on top, with a drizzle of the tomatillo sauce and fresh lime wedges.
CARNITAS WITH TOMATILLO SAUCE
2 LB pork shoulder cut – fat trimmed and cut into medium pieces
4 tomatillos – husk removed and washed – chopped
1 large onion – medium chop
10 garlic cloves – peeled and left whole
1 poblano pepper
1 serrano pepper
1 TSP ground cumin
1 TSP Mexican Oregano
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro – washed and ½ left with their stems tied with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
Flour for dusting
1 cup of orange juice
½ cup of chicken stock
Pineapple rings – canned or fresh
GREEN PICO DE GALLO
½ large sweet onion – chopped finely
Fresh chopped cilantro
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP lime juice
Chop the onion and add to a bowl. Add the chopped fresh cilantro, pinch of salt and the lime juice and mix well, allowing to sit for about 30 minutes.
PREHEAT OVEN TO 375F
Salt and pepper the pork pieces and dredge in flour. In a large Dutch oven heat up about 2-3 TBSP of olive oil and sear the pork pieces on all sides and remove to a bowl.
In the same oil, adding a little more if necessary, add the chopped vegetables, salt pepper and ground cumin and sauté till soft – about 12 minutes. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Return the seared pork pieces to the pan, add the orange juice, stock, oregano, half the tied cilantro with their stems.
Cover the Dutch oven with the lid, place in the oven and braise for about 2 hours, till the pork is falling apart tender.
While the pork is braising grill the pineapple rings till the obtain some char. Remove and chop.
Remove the carnitas to a chopping board and shred them with a fork. Place the shredded meat in a bowl and add a ¼ cup of the cooking juices to keep moist.
Remove the stemmed cilantro and the bay leaves and with an immersion blender puree the sauce. Adjust seasonings and add some fresh cilantro, reserving some for serving.
Place the pureed tomatillo sauce on the bottom of two heated corn tortillas, add the shredded pork, and top with the seared pineapple cubes and the green pico. Serve with lime wedges.