I remember the first time I saw a tomatillo. “A tom-a-tee-WHAT?!” I was at my college sponsor mother’s bed and breakfast in Annapolis, laying out to tan, while Carolyn was harvesting vegetables and herbs for breakfast the next morning. She leaned over and put something the size of a lacrosse ball in my hand. I glanced down to the curious new food, peeling back the green-brown husk to reveal a green-tomato-looking-thingy.“The tomatillos finally came in,” she exclaimed. “Now I just have to figure out what to do with them.” This happened about 13 years ago. Neither of us had heard of food blogs, nor did we know to look up recipes online. We spent a large part of that afternoon flipping through the indexes of her extensive collection of cookbooks. Ultimately, we came up empty handed. After much discussion, Carolyn decided to thinly sliced the tomatillos, arranging them over a bed of mixed greens, lightly tossed in a homemade Caesar dressing. I anxiously took a bite, nervous about this exotic food. The flavor was tangy, yet mellow, and I happily scarfed down the rest of the salad. For the first time in my life with a salad, I was sad that there would be no more – the rest of the tomatillos were needed for a breakfast omelet. I never forgot my first encounter with “the tomatillo”, although I never ventured to add them to my repetoir until a few years ago. I was reading through my emails when this delightful recipe from a Food and Wine newsletter popped into my inbox. The mild flavor of the tomatillos perfectly offsets the kick of the notorious chipotle chile. This sauce can compliment any meat, beef, chicken, pork or fish. Or it can be substituted for a salsa or dip for chips and vegetables.
Chipotle Tomatillo Sauce
Adapted from Food and Wine
(Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free)
- 4 medium tomatillos, husked
- 1 poblano chile
- 1 medium onion
- 4 medium cloves of garlic (still in casing)
- 1-3 chipotle chiles (Note 1)
- Hot water
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
- Salt to taste
1. Turn oven to 500°.
2. Combine the chipotle chiles with sufficient hot water to immerse them in a small container.
3. Put the tomatillos, poblano, onion, and garlic in a roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven for 17-20 minutes. Vegetables should be slightly charred, but not burnt.
4. Remove roasting pan from the oven. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Remove garlic meat from its casing.
5. Transfer contents of roasting pan (to include all juices), as well as applicable number of chipotle chiles and 1/4 cup of reserve water to a food processor. Add cilantro and lime juice.
6. Slowly pulse until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
7. Add salt to taste.
8. Can be made ahead of time. Store sauce in an air tight container for up to 1 week.
Note 1: The number of chipotle peppers you will add to the sauce depends on your desired heat level. My family tends to be fans of “super spicy”. 3 is sufficient (although I think they might like 4). I myself am happy with a mid-level 2, but I do have friends that can only tolerate 1. Feel free to adjust according to your table audience.