Introduction: How to Make, Serve and Store a Semi-authentic Salsa Verde
The feisty jalapeno pepper and placid tomatillo team up with kindred ingredients to make tortilla chips look better and taste great, especially with beer.
Step 1: Motivation
This is my very first Instructable, and I have it on good authority that some in the Instructable's community want to know why a project is selected. I selected this project because I actually learned it in a live Instructable many years ago in Mazatlan, Mexico. The picture of the beach is probably gratuitous, but I had it and didn't really know what else to put here. I had eaten a late lunch one day and had this salsa for the first time. I told my waiter, who spoke pretty good English, how much I liked it and that I wished I could learn how to make it. He invited me back into the kitchen to watch one of the cooks prepare the sauce for that evening. The cook spoke hardly any English, and I spoke hardly any Spanish, but he showed me each step, just as we do in Instructables. He was preparing a lot more salsa than we will here, but the ratios and ingredients remain the same, as does the method.
Step 2: Introducing the Ingredients
The tomatillo is the primary ingredient. They look like bright green tomatoes (although they are not) in a dull green husk. They are native to Mexico, but I have found them in markets as far south as Panama, and as far north as Montreal and the city of Quebec, which is as far north as I am inclined to travel. Tomatillos are widely available in Latin markets and most supermarkets in cities and towns with large Latin American populations. I do not know for sure if they would be available in places like Montana or North Dakota or Iowa or online.
Jalapeno peppers are better known than tomatillos and more readily available. There are a lot of different types of green peppers, but this is the right pepper for this salsa; use it.
Cilantro is a leafy green herb also known as coriander or Chinese parsley, and shows up in many Latin American and Asian dishes. It is sold in bunches.
Garlic and limes (Persian, not Key) are the remaining forms of plant life involved.
Step 3: Gathering Ingredients
I was taught to use a ratio of 2 jalapenos to 3 tomatillos, so for this batch of salsa verde I gathered 12 tomatillos and 8 jalapenos. We will also need a few cloves of garlic (4 to 6, depending on sizes) about a half a bunch of cilantro, 2 limes, salt, and 4 or 5 ounces of tequila. I am using Sauza here, but this is NOT an advertisement! You can use whichever brand you most enjoy.
Step 4: Gathering Equipment
You will need a pot suitable for boiling stuff, a cutting board, a sharp knife, a relatively large spoon, and a blender. And, of course, a stove. I usually play music while I cook, and when I make this, I frequently play my Santa Esmeralda Greatest Hits CD. This is optional, but the Instructable on Instructables says to tell a little bit about myself, so there it is.
Step 5: Preparing Ingredients
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them. I use a little soap because there is a slightly sticky and invisible film between the husks and the skin, and anything that feels that yucky needs to go. Do not cut or puncture the tomatillos. Then cut the tops off the jalapenos, slit them in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. There is an Instructional on cleaning peppers, and also, some people wear rubber gloves when they clean them. But I just cut twice and scrape twice per pepper. I use a sharp knife, move along pretty fast, and rinse off my hands afterwards. Rinse off the knife too, and then cut one of the limes in half.
Step 6: Cooking the Ingredients
Place the tomatillos and jalapenos in the pot, cover with water, and turn on the heat. Squeeze the lime into a "rocks" glass with a few ice cubes in it, and toss in about three jiggers of tequila. As the pot comes to a boil, sip the tequila. Do this for about 10 minutes, and at the conclusion of that time the tomatillos should be soft and a dull green color, and the tequila should be gone. You may think that the tequila consumption step is superfluous, but that is the way I was taught to do it, and if you elect to admit this step, you do so at your own risk.
Step 7: Uncooked Ingredients
While you are cooking the tomatillos and jalapenos, and drinking the tequila, cut the stems off the (washed) cilantro, peel the skins off the garlic cloves and cut the remaining lime in half. It is advisable to do these cutting tasks while drinking only the first, or top, jigger or so from the "rocks" glass of tequila. Leave the salt right where it is for now.
Step 8: Retrieving the Cooked Ingredients
Using the large spoon mentioned earlier, remove the tomatillos and jalapeno parts from the hot water. The tomatillos will be quite soft, so a spoon will be a better option than tongs. Lay the cooked ingredients out on a cutting board and let them cool just a bit (these were snapped right after I removed them and are still steaming). You can cut some of the larger tomatillos in half, but it is not absolutely necessary, since they will offer no resistance during the next step. Save the cooking water for the time being.
Step 9: Toss It in the Blender
Throw in the tomatillos, jalapenos, cilantro and garlic first. I have done it here in two batches, throwing in about half of each ingredient, then blending, then throwing in the rest and blending. Mix it up fairly well, taste it, and add lime and salt to suit your taste. If it is too thick, add a little bit of the cooking liquid you saved from the previous step. It is unlikely that the salsa will ever be too thin; you want it to be viscous enough to stick to a chip.
Step 10: Store It in Glass
This is the way the salsa was stored at the restaurant at which I learned this process, in empty glass tequila bottles, in the refrigerator. This is the same bottle featured in Step 6. I had one half of a lime leftover after adding lime and salt to taste, and rather than let it get dried out, I decided to soak it in another glass of tequila. I liberated the bottle, washed it out, and filled it with salsa. This is a 1.75 liter bottle, so the ingredients used in this batch produced just under a liter of salsa. It will keep nicely in glass, refrigerated, for about three days.
Step 11: Serve It With Chips
Large corn tortilla chips work, and taste, best, and I prefer to serve the salsa slightly chilled, the way it was served when I first tasted it. But if you heat it up, it also makes an excellent green enchilada sauce; far better than anything that has ever been in a can.
Step 12: Better Yet, Serve It With Chips and a Friend
If you are serving Salsa Verde as an appetizer, it is always nice to provide two choices. Pico de Gallo goes well with tortilla chips too, and everything on the plate goes great with a Mexican beer, especially a lager, in a chilled glass with a wedge of lime, assuming you, unlike me, still have any limes left.