(jump to recipe)
Few years ago, I used to watch Top Chef and Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV very religiously. I may or may not have bought several Top Chef Masters episodes on Amazon Instant Video. One of the finalists was Rick Bayless, an American chef who has mastered Mexican Cooking. Something about his mild demeanor, warmth and the fact that he went to Mexico as a young man and ended up living there for several years, enchanted by authentic Mexican cooking, just stayed with me. He ended up winning the Top Chef Masters title that season because he stayed true to his humble, warm self and made some delicious Mexican food. I can’t wait to eat at his restaurant, Frontera Grill, the next time I’m in Chicago!
Since then I’ve been following his recipes, and their simplicity and deliciousness can’t be beat. One of the most underrated salsas out there, “salsa verde”, is usually the “medium” in the trio of “mild, medium and hot” salsas in typical Mexican restaurants. Most of the times its watered down, pale and dull. This “medium” salsa recipe below by Rick Bayless is the highest calling of the humble tomatillo, and literally takes 15 minutes to whip up! Perfect for sprucing up a bowl of cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs or the tip of your tortilla chip, this Tomatillo Salsa will always be at the ready.
Just broil some tomatillos under high heat with your favorite pepper (depending on the level of heat) and a few cloves of garlic:
Once cooled, puree in a food processor with lots of fresh cilantro and some cold water. Add finely diced white onions and salt, and you are all set!
If you don’t have time to roast the tomatillos, you can simply blend all the ingredients in a food processor and adjust salt to taste. Just omit the white onions. While this will taste really great too, the roasting really deepens the flavors, so if you can spare the time, please roast!
Once you have a jar of this salsa chilling in the refrigerator, the possibilities are endless! Its quite possible that I planned a taco night, and started a new “taco thursday” tradition just to use this salsa. I sautéed some turkey sausage till it was well-browned and then cooked it down with half a finely sliced yellow onion, some paprika, salt and taco seasoning (you can use any seasoning or spice mix you have on hand). And then I put it out with all the taco fixin’s I had on hand – avocado, lime wedges, sour cream, lettuce. All of this can be put together – start to finish – in less than an hour, which makes it really perfect for a weeknight dinner. It can also be scaled up for a crowd.
I haven’t tried it yet but if this salsa were to be tossed with chunks of avocado, it would make for some delicious, super-quick guacamole!
• Recipe •
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (adapted slightly from Rick Bayless)
Makes about 2 cups
12 oz, or 5 to 6 medium-sized Tomatillos, husks removed, washed off all sticky residue
2 cloves of Garlic
1-2 Serrano or Jalapeño Peppers, depending on how much heat you can handle (you can also remove the seeds from the peppers to reduce the heat further)
A fistful of roughly chopped Cilantro (about a cup)
1/2 cup of Chilled Water
1 small or 1/2 large White Onion, very finely diced
Salt to taste
Heat the broiler of your oven (to the High Broil setting, or 500 degrees F).
On a medium baking sheet covered in foil, arrange the rinsed and patted dry tomatillos along with garlic and peppers. Place the sheet on the highest possible rack setting in the oven and roast the tomatillos, garlic and peppers as close to the heat as possible for 5-7 minutes until black spots appear. Flip the tomatillos, garlic and peppers over and roast the other side for 5 minutes. Take it out of the oven and cool completely.
Once cooled, pulse in a food processor with the cilantro a few times, just to get it mixed together. Slowly add the water, making sure that the mixture doesn’t become too wet. Pulse or blend to the desired consistency (for chunkier salsa a few pulses may be sufficient). Transfer to a serving bowl.
Rinse the diced white onion under water and wring out the excess water. Add onions to the salsa and combine well. Add salt to taste.
Turkey Taco Filling
Makes about 2 cups, to fill 6-8 small tacos (with other fixins)
1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil
6 oz Turkey Sausage, defrosted
1 small or 1/2 large Yellow Onion, finely sliced (White or Red Onion won’t work as their water content is too high, may make the filling soggy)
1/2 teaspoon of Paprika (can be increased or decreased depending on desired level of heat)
1/2 teaspoon of Salt (if the Turkey Sausage is high in salt, you may need to dial it down)
1 teaspoon of Taco Seasoning
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the Sausage and break it apart so it is evenly spread out on the pan. Let it brown well.
Once the sausage is browned, add the onions and cook together till the onion is soft and mixed well with the sausage. Add the paprika, salt and taco seasoning to taste and mix well. Serve atop a soft/hard taco with other taco fixins. Will work for Nachos too.