Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tomatillo salsa with hatch

A couple of posts ago I said I would give the recipe (by which I mean "guidelines," because it's not an exact science with me) for the tomatillo salsa I used on my tortilla/egg/cheese thing. I roasted some hatch chiles the other night for something else and thought the pics made sense here too.

This time of year in Texas we have hatch chiles from Hatch, New Mexico. So that is what I've been using, but at other times of the year, I use poblanos. Poblanos are the real workhorse chile in my life--mostly mild but sometimes spicy, especially up near the stem. They are generally available even in the crappiest of grocery stores, and are pretty cheap. But this time of year, in the southwest, it's hatch all the way.

Here are the hatchies fresh. They are usually all green but you can see a few starting to blush.
There are "hot" and "mild" hatch chiles...but as with all chiles, it's a gamble. The mild can be completely heat-free, or they can be pretty spicy. The hot are generally medium to medium-hot, but some of them will unexpectedly make your teeth bleed. So I buy three mild and three hot, and then combine.

First thing to do is roast. You do this right on an open flame, either a gas stove or a grill. You want nearly the whole surface to be charred but not coal-black and not ashy. Just deep brown and blistered. But if it goes too dark that's really ok too. Believe me I've screwed up many and it's fine.

Yeah, my stove is kind of dirty.

These are about 1/4 done. Keep turning till the whole surface is blistered, put them in a bowl and cover them. Let them sit for like half an hour. If you do this first, you can chop other things while you wait.

Next, remove them from the bowl. They will be all limp and soggy. Chop the stem and very top off. Stand over the sink and kind of split them open lengthwise, and rub off all the charred skin and simultaneously remove the seeds. Do not give in to the temptation to run them under water to speed things up. I have been told this washes away the essential smoky flavor. Just get rid of as much char as you can (there will be some left) and as many seeds as you can. Put on cutting board and dice. Put in a bowl together and mix up so the hots and milds are fully mingling. For this recipe you only need about half of this. Save the other half for something else.

Now we do the tomatillos. These are widely available here, and I used to buy them all the time in the northeast too (and my CSA farm grew them). In the store, they look like this.

At home, pull off the papery husk, wash them (they are kind of sticky, that's ok) and cut out the hard bit around the core. Then finely chop, or, as I tried, grate them.

It worked pretty well, but then you end up with this leftover skin. The skin is tasty so I diced it and used it too. This is also a good trick for tomatoes, especially when you don't want their skin (like in sauce).

Now that you know your ingredients and methods, here is the recipe. I am 100% making this up as I go along. I've made this a million times and never really keep track of any quantities. Insert "about" in front of every ingredient listed and adjust to your tastes. (This is what I love about this blog--so different from my regular job editing recipes and measuring tablespoons of olive oil, etc.)

Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde) a la Jes
Yields: about 4 cups

olive oil or other cooking oil if you object to the taste of olive
1/2 onion, diced
a few cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh tomatillos, diced or grated
3 hatch chiles, hot, mild or a mix, or 2 to 3 poblanos, roasted and diced
1 lime
1 bunch cilantro

Heat up some olive oil. Just a couple tablespoons. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatillo and cook about 10 minutes. Mixture will start to really meld together.
Add the chiles. Simmer it all together for awhile...Don't overdo it or it will start to dry out. Probably no more than half an hour.
At some point, add a squeeze of lime juice and season with salt.
Turn off the heat and stir in cilantro. This is really up to you how much you use. I would use nearly a whole bunch. You can use either just the leaves, if you are patient enough to pull them all off, or just chop up the leafy top with a bit of stem. If you don't love cilantro, use considerably less.
Let it sit off the heat for awhile. At least 20 minutes or so.
Depending on your preference, you might want to blend it up in a food processor or blender. But I like it chunky.
Serve as a topping for enchiladas, burritos, eggs, or chill and use as dip.


  1. I will have to try this sometime when I'm feeling adventurous :)

  2. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog! I love that you don't dictate following recipes to a T. It's not my style, either.

    I made your salsa verde recipe (I had never used tomatillos before!) and it turned out FANTASTIC! Bravo and thank you for all the great musings and dishes! Please keep it up, even though the 'no packaging' experiment is over!

  3. Hello, I just saw this comment. Thanks Charlotte, I am so glad the salsa was tasty and that you like the blog. I still have so many food adventures to post, experiment or not!