Mexican Green Salsa

The birria woman commands her white wooden street-food cube on the corner of Madero and Constitución. There’s always a group of eaters on her benches when the window flaps are down and the hand-pressed tortillas are flicked from a hot griddle. Elbow to elbow three women chop onions, fill tacos and assemble garnishes for the famous Jalisco birria, spoon-tender beef cooked in chili-scented broth, simmering in a giant cauldron. When in tapatío country, it’s a specialty not to be missed.

Street food vendors often provide the best authentic local cooking in Mexico. Use common sense, and it will be easy to spot safe street stands. With wide-open cooking and serving areas, cleanliness is on display. It’s also wise to observe who’s gobbling up the offerings handwritten on a menu board above the work area. The birria stand’s white-aproned workers with their hair tightly netted keep the counters scrubbed and the day’s ingredients neatly stowed, although the pace of plating never seems to let up.

Whether you order a bowl of the specialty stewed beef complete with fresh tortillas, chopped onions and limes, or a taco plate, homemade salsas in plastic squeeze bottles wait for the taking. There’s always a dark red picante sauce made from ground chiles arbol, and a tart green sauce made from tomatillos (Mexican green tomatoes in papery husks) and green chili. Both salsas are easy and inexpensive to prepare and will give you the chance to really cook Mexican in just a few minutes. My favorite version of the green salsa, always a winter favorite, came from one of Jodie’s culinary adventures. Here’s a three-ingredient wonder sauce prepared in the traditional way on the stovetop. With a pound of tomatillos and a couple of Serrano chilis you’ll wonder why you ever paid so much for a jar of store-bought salsa. All you need is a frying pan, a lid and a blender.

Jodie’s Green Salsa

1  tablespoon pure olive oil

1 lb. tomatillos (5-6) husked and washed

1-2 serrano chilis washed

3-4 unpeeled garlic cloves

½ teaspoon salt

Film a heavy frying pan with oil. Add the tomatillos, whole chilis and garlic cloves. Cover and cook over medium/low heat for 20-25 minutes, turning the tomatillos and chilis halfway through, or until everthing is soft. The tomatillos and the chilis may brown lightly. Turn off heat, leave covered and allow to cool until cooked items are cool enough to handle.

Cut the cores from the tomatillos; peel the skin from the chilis and remove stems. Pinch the soft cooked garlic out of their papers. Reserve one whole cooked chili in case the salsa is hot enough with one chili. (I always cook two, but usually use only one in the sauce.)

Scrape the tomatillos, garlic and one whole chili into a blender along with all the cooked juices. Add ½ teaspoon salt and blend to a puree. Use the salsa as it is with chips, for tacos, salads, sandwiches or thin with some stock for an enchilada sauce. Jazz up the salsa with some finely chopped white onion or scallions, cilantro and diced avocado. Makes 2 cups; keeps 5 days in the fridge.





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