Ahh, Cinco de Mayo – pretty much my favorite holiday next to Christmas. Where I can drink as many margaritas and eat as much guacamole as I want, and not be chastised for it. It’s funny actually, because a little over 5 years ago I wouldn’t have touched Mexican food with a 10 foot-pole. Can you believe that? Thank goodness I came around, and things like tomatillos and cilantro are on my shopping list every week. In fact, I’ve started visiting my local Latin produce guy at the flea market every week – just because his produce is superior, and a much better bargain than at Mega Mart. I get all my Mexican staples there – dried beans, limes, corn husks for tamales, poblanos and jalapenos. Heh, it never ceases to amaze me where these roads in my kitchen are leading me everyday!
So, in case you were wondering – like I was 5 years ago – what in the Hell is a tomatillo? And, what do I do with it? I’m here to help! While they look similar to green tomatoes – they’re actually closely related to gooseberries. They have a papery husk on them that must be removed before cooking. They have a bright flavor, with a natural smokiness. When roasted, that flavor is amplified. And when combined with other flavors – like roasted garlic and jalapeno, it’s just out of this world.
I like to serve this salsa whenever I make carnitas, as I think the brightness plays off wonderfully against the richness of the pork. But, it’s good with all kinds of traditional Mexican dishes! And, a change of pace from the traditional red salsa that we all know and love. So step outside of your comfort zone, and try something new for this Cinco de Mayo!
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
6 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved (about 8 ounces)
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
about 1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 small white onion, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup water
Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. lay the garlic, tomatillos, and jalapeno in a single layer, laying the tomatillos cut-side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the tomatillos are well-browned. Turn everything over and brown the other side (the tomatillos should be very soft). Remove the tomatillos and garlic and add to a food processor or blender, and cook the jalapeno on all sides before removing to a cutting board.
When the jalapeno is cool enough to handle, peel the shriveled blackened skin, halve, and remove ribs and seeds. Roughly chop and add to the food processor as well.
Add 1/4 cup of water, onions, and cilantro to the food processor, and blend to a coarse puree. Pour into a dish and add more water if necessary, to give the salsa the proper consistency. Add lime juice and salt (about 1/2 tsp) to taste.