Top | Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
Essential Roasted Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa
(recipe, Rick Bayless)
Though most initiates to Mexican cooking probably start with a recipe for tomato salsa, I'd encourage this tomatillo one as a first foray. Besides being clearly authentic, it's easier: Ripe tomatillos are easier to find than ripe tomatoes; tomatillos don't get peeled; they give a salsa a consistently lovely thickness; and they come out a better texture than tomatoes when chopped in the blender or food processor.
For a salsa that's the quintessence of freshness and spiciness, make the recipe that follows with just a half pound of raw tomatillos, roughly chop them, then coarsely purée them in a blender or food processor with all the rest of the ingredients (left raw), and add a tablespoon or two of water (it should be the consistency of a relish or fresh chutney). Clearly, this all-raw version is very quick to make, but you need to enjoy it within an hour or so.
- 1 lb. tomatillos (about 10 to 12 medium), husked and rinsed
- Fresh serrano chiles (roughly 5), to taste (about 1 ounce total)
- 2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped (about 4 ounces)
- ¼ cup loosely packed and roughly chopped cilantro
- Salt (about 1 generous teaspoon)
- Sugar (about 1 scant teaspoon, if needed)
- Roast the key ingredients: Lay the tomatillos on a baking sheet and place 4 inches below a very hot broiler. When the tomatillos blister, blacken, and soften on one side, about 5 minutes, turn them over and roast on the other side. Cool completely on the baking sheet.
- Roast the chiles and garlic on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and soft, 5 to 10 minutes for the chiles, about 15 minutes for the garlic. Cool, then pull the stems from the chiles and peel the garlic.
- Make the purée: Scrape the roasted tomatillos (and any juices that have accumulated around them) into a food processor or blender, along with the roasted chiles and garlic. Pulse the machine until everything is reduced to a rather coarse-textured purée — the unctuously soft tomatillos will provide body for all the chunky bits of chiles and garlic.
- Scrape the salsa into a serving bowl, then stir in between ¼ and ½ cup water, to give the sauce an easily spoonable consistency. Scoop the onion into a strainer, rinse under cold water, shake off the excess, and stir into the salsa, along with the cilantro. Taste and season with salt and a little sugar.
This salsa should be eaten with several hours after you've added the onion and cilantro, though you can make the purée a day or more ahead. Fresh jalapeños can replace the serranos.
Culinate editor's note: To turn this salsa into a sauce for enchiladas, sauté the onion in a bit of oil until soft and golden on the edges, then add to the tomatillo purée. Pour the purée into a saucepan, thin with vegetable or chicken broth (1 to 2 cups), and cook for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Stir in the cilantro and season to taste; omit the water.