Tomatillos are in season right now in Northern California. I am finding them in our local farmers markets.
Tomatillos are known for their tart flavor and green color. They lend themselves especially well to sauces and to pairings with meats. They are a member of the nightshade family and have an inedible husk, similar to the caped gooseberry.
The husk will help in determining which tomatillos to select in the market. You want to look for green husks and firm fruit.
The fruit should be either green or purple. Before using the tomaillos in a dish, remove the husk and rinse the tomatillos to remove the stick residue underneath. I like to char the tomatillos to bring out their flavor.
This is one of our favorite recipes and combines the flavors of the tomatillos with chicken, onions, garlic, cilantro and lime. A charred jalapeno pepper is added for a little heat. I typically serve this dish over rice with toasted coconut.
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos
1 small jalapeno pepper
4-6 pieces of chicken (I use a mixture of dark and light. You can keep the skin on or remove it.)
Gray sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
1/2 cup plain all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup onions, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
For the rice:
3 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cup white rice (I prefer Charleston Gold rice.)
1 1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsweetened, organic coconut flakes
You will also need:
Gas stove with rack or grill to char tomatillos
Pan for dredging chicken
Large skillet or dutch oven with lid
Medium saucepan with lid
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse them to remove the sticky residue. Dry them and char them lightly on the stovetop or on a grill.
When the tomatillos are charred, remove them from the heat and cut them into quarters or eighths.
Char the jalapeno pepper, as well.
Salt and pepper the chicken liberally and dredge each piece in flour to coat.
Heat the olive oil in the skillet or dutch oven until it is hot. Add the chicken and sear it on each side for about 3 minutes.
Move the chicken to the sides of the pan and add the chopped onions and garlic. Saute for about two minutes.
Add the tomatillos, the charred jalapeno pepper, the cilantro and the water.
Bring to a boil and then cover with a lid.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked throughout. (The dark meat chicken should be very tender by this time. The white meat won’t be as tender but will be cooked throughout.) Add the lime juice and cook for another five minutes to combine the flavors. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Turn off the heat and let the dish rest for at least 10 minutes. (At this point, I like to take the chicken off the bone or shred it and then add it back to the sauce, but that is optional.)
Meanwhile, heat the water for the rice in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and the rice. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the rice is done, about 20 minutes.
Brown the coconut in a small dry skillet over low heat. Keep watching and stirring as the coconut can easily burn. When the coconut is light brown throughout, turn off the heat and stir for another minute.
Add the butter to the rice and stir lightly with a fork until the butter has melted. Add the browned coconut and stir lightly to combine. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.
To serve, place the rice in an individual serving dish. Top with the chicken and the tomatillo sauce. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.