a tomatillo sauce

to me, the making of mexican food is daunting, and i really don't know why. perhaps it's because in the back of my mind i know that if i want good, quick, cheap food, i can run up to the El Azteca on the corner of Haynes Bridge and Old Alabama, where they'll also serve me a yummy margarita on the rocks with salt the size of my head. But how "authentic" is that chain, really?

One time a few years ago i spent all afternoon attempting to make empanadas from a recipe i found on the innernets. they weren't very good; the dough was tough, the filling not as flavorful as it could have been. the following week the boy raved about the empanadas that his dishwasher at work made (his dishwasher was mexican and used a family recipe). i wonder if this is what it's like for someone who embarks on cooking french food without prior familiarity with it. i feel almost lost.

i bought a copy of Rick Bayless' book Authentic Mexican sometime last year, and i've barely cracked it open. i kind of feel as though i have to attempt all the variations of salsas and sauces before i can really get into it and make something more substantial. but so far, the only one i've made from the book is a tomatillo guacamole that is so good that i keep going back to it repeatedly because i love it so.

i love the chunkiness of it, the bite of onion and cilantro, the heat of the pepper, the soothing addition of avocado. i love it all and i want to marry it. it lends itself particularly well to tacos made with grilled flaky white fish. the picture below shows it smeared on pieces of pan-seared grouper and mixed greens; i had two of these for lunch one day last week.

tomatillo sauce (guacamole with tomatillos) adapted from Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican

makes around 2 cups

5 or 6 medium fresh tomatillos, husked and washed (must wash them... the husk gives off a sticky substance, or maybe it's pesticides, who knows)
1 jalapeno, deseeded and roughly chopped
leaves from a few sprigs of cilantro ( 5 to 6 - i like the flavor - and you can use the stems themselves, one of the only herbs where you can do so)
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
1 ripe avocado
salt to taste

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt liberally. toss in the tomatillos and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and place in food processor. You can use a blender in case you don't have a food processor.

2. add the jalapeno, cilantro, onion to the tomatillos and blitz into a coarse puree.

3. cut the avocado in half and scoop out each half into a large bowl. mash avocado with a fork, add the tomatillo puree, and stir to mix. add salt to taste. cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface of the salsa. refrigerate if you want to, but i like it right then at room temperature.

4. if you prefer a smoother puree, you can toss the whole thing back in the food processor and blitz even further, but i'm a big fan of the chunky texture of this.

lends itself really well to a flaky fish taco.


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