I've been interested in Mexican food a lot lately. I've learned that what we, in the U.S., usually think of as Mexican isn't really authentic. I was reading Ben's blog at What's Cooking? and I borrowed a couple of Mexican cookbooks from the library. The more I read, the more I wanted to try to make some authentic Mexican food.
On What's Cooking? I saw a recipe for a dish called Entomatado de Pollo and thought it sounded really good. I've never noticed tomatillos at my local markets, but I've never looked. The rest of the ingredients were easy enough to get, so I decided to give it a go.
Some notes about the ingredients:
Tomatillos are little green tomatoes. They are a little more tart than the red ones, I guess the best way to describe them is to say they are the Granny Smith apples of the tomato family. On Ben's blog, he posted a picture of tomatillos. From the picture, I thought they'd be the same size as regular tomatoes, but they are actually quite a bit smaller. The tomatillos were about the size of a cherry tomato, though some were closer to the size of a clementine or tangerine. The tomatillos have husks on the outside like corn. When buying tomatillos, you should look for ones that are more green in color and are firm to the touch. The husks should still be close to the tomatillo. I actually found some at two stores. The first store had tiny tomatillos and I barely got enough good ones for a 1 lb. I guess they aren't bought too often because there were a lot that were going bad, the cashiers at both stores also had to ask me what they were! The second store had better tomatillos and they were also slightly larger.
My local Price Chopper, the store with the better tomatillos, also carries Mexican Oregano. It was very inexpensive, at $1.99 for the container, and it is worth it to buy some for cooking Mexican dishes. The Mexican Oregano has a different flavor than the Mediterranean kind. It is more fragrant and intense in flavor than the regular oregano as well. You can read more about Mexican Oregano at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's website.
I decided that I would make a salsa and chips to eat before the meal. Since I found better tomatillos at Price Chopper, the second store I went to, I had a total of 2lbs. tomatillos. I figured I'd make two types of salsa, one red and one green. I forgot to make sure to get corn tortillas at the store, and bought flour by mistake. I figured I'd go ahead and use the flour ones, although I do prefer the taste to corn tortilla chips. I had to go get my boyfriend while I was making the salsa and chips, so I didn't fry them, I just coated them with oil and baked them since it wouldn't have been safe to leave a pot of oil on the oven while going to get him, but I could run out between batches of baked chips. My red salsa was a little watery, but had an excellent flavor. The heat came in as part of the aftertaste so it had an interesting blend of initial cool, then heat. I prefer my salsa verde to the one I had at Moe's. My boyfriend didn't like the salsa verde at Moe's but said he liked mine.
Now it was time for the main dish. Since Lee was late getting out of work, I scrapped my plans to try to make authentic Mexican rice and used the box of Spanish Rice flavored Rice-a-Roni instead. Everything I've heard and read says that Mexican rice is tricky even for professional chefs, so with all the other new things, I thought I'd just go with a box mix for today. I'll try the authentic rice another time. I have never had the Spanish Rice before, and it was really good! I wasn't expecting to need a can of diced tomatoes, but I just diced up two tomatoes I bought today, and used a can of Rotel.
The Entomatado de Pollo was easy to make. The most difficult part was cutting the tomatillos. The smaller ones were quite firm and weren't very easy to chop. Other than that, it was a breeze and it tasted delicious!
All in all, I'd definitely make this again and would be sure to make some authentic Mexican Rice to go with it. I can't wait to try more authentic Mexican food and have some of this again for lunch tomorrow!
Oh, I'm sorry about the bad picture quality for the Entomatado de Pollo picture. I usually take several photos and post the best, but I accidentally dropped my camera in the food after that picture and thought I'd give it a break for a bit...
I am rating this 4 out of 5 stars because the red salsa was a bit water for my tastes.
You can use this recipe to make either red or green salsa. For green salsa, simply exchange the tomatoes for tomatillos. You could make this without roasting the tomatoes/tomatillos and peppers, but it would not have the same flavor.
Salsa de Molcajete
2 jalapeño peppers (or 4 Serrano peppers)
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
3 medium red tomatoes or 4 large tomatillos, husked
½ cup finely chopped white onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
salt, to taste
There are three techniques for roasting the peppers and tomatoes or tomatillos. a) Preheat oven to the broil setting and roast until blackened, turning halfway through, b) use a cast iron skillet and cook on each side until charred (do not add any oil to skillet), or c) Heat one side of the grill and roast vegetables with indirect heat until blackened in spots. The garlic should either be roasted in the broiler or skillet, you'd need a fine mesh grill to keep them from slipping through the bars of a grill.
- Roast the peppers, tomatoes or tomatillos, and garlic. When done, allow to cool before handling.
- Meanwhile, chop onions, place in a mesh strainer and rinse under cold water.
- Cut the stems off the chilies and remove the seeds. Peel the garlic cloves.
- Peel tomatoes or tomatillos. Remove charred bits from the chilies.
- Mix tomatoes (recipe calls for unstrained, but I think I'll try straining them a bit next time), garlic and peppers. Blend, or pulse in a blender until desired consistency. Season with lime juice and salt. If serving within an hour or two, add onions and cilantro.
Baked Tortilla Chips
8 large torillas
2 tablespoons oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Brush tortillas with oil and use a sharp knife to cut into eighths.
- Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes or until crisp and slightly golden brown.
Entomatado de Pollo
4 chicken thighs
4 tbsp olive oil
¼ white onion, diced
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 lb dehusked, chopped tomatillos
2 Chipotle peppers (or more for your tastes)
1 tbsp Mexican Oregano
- Sprinkle chicken thighs with lemon juice, salt, and pepper on both sides. Refrigerate for approximately 2 hours.
- Heat olive oil in large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté garlic and onions.
- Add chicken, skin side down. Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until light brown.
- Turn over thighs and cook for about 4 more minutes.
- You may drain the juices, but the dish will lose flavour. Add tomatillos, peppers, and oregano. Stir, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper if desired.