This was a process of discovery for me. Do you have a Mexican food restaurant that has green salsa? We have about 100 within 10 miles. That is a slight exaggeration but not by much. And it makes me a blessed person.
And while I’ve certainly made my share of red salsas and pico de gallos, I have never tried to tackle green salsa. However, I have gained quite an affection for green salsa and for its main ingredient, tomatillos. Recently I posted a Chicken Tomatillo Casserole that is a favorite of mine. Prior to working on that recipe I had never worked with fresh tomatillos, and now I think I’ll be playing with them for the rest of my life. One reason is that I think they are beautiful little fruits. I am captivated by their dying husks and how such a plump and firm fruit is underneath it. I must have taken 300 photographs of this bowl of tomatillos.
As I set about trying to crack the code to my favorite green salsas, I discovered that good green salsas are not only personal but exist on a continuum. You can make the very easiest and fresh version and you can stop. Or, you can go a little further and cook it. And, then you can go a little further and make tomatillo guacamole, if you choose. Or, you can put an avocado in the food processor with the salsa and make a smooth and creamy salsa, which was the favorite in my house.
This particular road of discovery started similarly to many of mine, when my neighbor Linda went on and on about a green salsa that she and her co-workers had encountered at a little spot called Los Arcos. They are on a mission to try as many of the…I don’t want to say “dives” but shall I say “less obvious and well known” establishments in Dallas. I am a fan of this endeavor, especially when Linda puts her intestinal fortitude on the line before I have to do so. She was my canary in the coal mine on this venture. Pitts and I called her this week and had her take us to Los Arcos and she was right. They have great green salsa, really excellent beef enchiladas, and extremely nice servers. I had to go home afterward and take a nap. It was one of those stupor inducing pig outs. But the salsa was great and it caused me to add the final step to this recipe which you should really try. If you double the recipe, you will have enough for all four permutations and you can have your own taste test.
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded
1-½ Serrano pepper, seeded
1 Poblano pepper, seeded
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed and fruit rinsed, and cut into quarters
1 lime, juiced
4 green onions, sliced, whites and light green parts only
0 or 1 or 2 avocados, depending on your end use
1 clove of garlic, chopped (for the final sauce)
To make the basic fresh tomatillo salsa, place the peppers, tomatillos, lime juice and green onions in a food processor and process until you are happy with the consistency. I chose a somewhat smooth texture. Season the salsa with salt.
To make a cooked salsa, which is just a bit smoother tasting without the raw bite (which I like very much, by the way…I’m simply drawing a comparison) place the raw salsa in a saucepan and simmer it gently for about ten minutes. You will notice that the color will change from bright green to a more dull shade of green. Adjust the seasoning with lime juice and salt, if necessary.
To take it another step and make tomatillo guacamole, simply dice a ripe avocado and spoon in about one quarter of a cup of the salsa. I used the cooked version of the salsa for my guacamole. Mash the avocado and salsa together. Adjust the seasoning with lime juice and salt, to taste. I added a little extra lime juice at this step to ensure that the avocado stayed a nice color.
And, to go the final step, to an avocado tomatillo salsa, you simply change the proportion of avocado to salsa and add some garlic. In the bowl of the food processor, add 1 cup of cooked salsa for every half of an avocado. I used one half avocado, 1 cup of cooked salsa, and one chopped clove of garlic. Process until completely smooth.
Note: Please remember that my Serrano and your Serrano (or Jalapeno) could be very different in flavor. I have had peppers from the same grocery store, but one week apart, range from mild as a bell pepper to inedibly hot. Please taste your peppers and use more or less of the Serrano and Jalapeno based on just how hot they are. You can always add more…you cannot take it out.