Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

A good salsa verde recipe is a staple; absolutely critical to the functioning of a boat and its crew.  Maybe a small exaggeration, but I have a sister-in-law for whom it is one of the major food groups beside chips, gumbo, and pie.  It’s wholly different than a pico de gallo or other standard, red, restaurant/jar-style salsa — very light and tangy, adding heat and the essence of pepper flavor without changing the “mood” of whatever you put it on, which in our case today was shrimp tacos.  You can substitute green tomatoes for the tomatillos, but they will lack that distinctive tart, fruity flavor and be more “blah” … so up the proportions of peppers and honey a bit and maybe add a bit of lime juice if you do.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

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4-5 tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3-4 serrano chiles
1/2 large white onion
1 large or two small garlic cloves
Honey
Sea salt
10-15 sprigs fresh cilantro

Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and give them a quick rinse to get some of the stickiness off.  Separate a garlic clove, but don’t peel it.  Halve the onion and then cut one half into two or three smaller wedges or rings.  Put the tomatillos on a baking sheet under your broiler for about 10 minutes per side, checking occasionally; they will darken and blister in spots, get soft, and possibly leak some sticky juice as they caramelize.  Remove when they are very soft and blistered.

Meanwhile, roast the onion, peppers and garlic on a griddle or cast iron pan until browned on all sides (you can also throw these under the broiler with the tomatillos if you don’t want a separate process going, but the griddle works faster and more thoroughly on the surfaces).  When done, peel the onions and garlic.  Stem and — if you are of a lower heat tolerance, seed — the peppers (we left our seeds in and served sliced radishes — the best pepper-heat antidote — on the side!)

Throw the tomatillos, onion, garlic and peppers into your hand-cranked food processor and grind away…

And away…and away.  Get this as smooth as you can, though you will be grinding it a bit more in following steps.  With any luck the skipper won’t ask you to winch him up the mast in the bosun’s chair today…he needs to choose between dinner and mast repairs.

When you think you are almost there (and this is almost…not quite fully incorporated yet), add the salt and honey and grind to stir through.  Start with maybe a teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of honey, and adjust upward as needed.  When this tastes glorious, add the cilantro leaves and give it a last-ARRRRGGGGHHHH of a grinding.

When you’ve got it sort of uniformly chopped, so that a small amount like 1/4 teaspoon (this stuff is hot … you won’t be eating large piles of it on a chip) has a bit of everything in it, you’re ready to serve!  And don’t worry about chilling it … this stuff is lovely slightly warm, as it will be if you’ve made it fresh from broiling the vegetables.

Serve on tacos, with chips, over ice-cream, on breakfast cereal … well, just about anywhere.  Comida deliciosa, si?

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Ingredients
  • 4-5 tomatillos
  • 3-4 seranno peppers
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10-15 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves pulled
Instructions
  1. Husk, rinse and dry tomatillos and broil or grill for about 10 minutes per side until soft and dark blisters develop. Cut onion half into several pieces and roast with garlic and chiles on a hot griddle or skillet (preferably cast iron) until well blackened. Peel onion and garlic and stem (and if desired for lower heat, seed) peppers.

  2. Process tomatillos, onion, garlic, and peppers in a food processor until fairly smooth. Add honey and salt and process to incorporate, tasting and adjusting as needed. Add cilantro leaves and process until uniformly incorporated.

  3. Serve on tacos, with chips, as a flavoring for soups, etc.

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