Salsa verde is one of those magical things that is tangy, sour, smoky, and salty, and is so useful! Unlike most red salsas, green salsa is excellent both as a condiment with chips, but also can double as the base for an outstanding sauce for Mexican cuisine. And while I think a lot of people believe making salsa is difficult to do, it really couldn’t be easier. All you need are the basic ingredients (which are readily available in most grocery stores), a broiler, and a food processor or blender.
The trick to getting great tasting salsa verde is to char the vegetables. The char really adds a great depth of flavor and lends a light smokiness to the salsa. Don’t be afraid to see black patches covering the various ingredients. The recipe for the salsa is below…note that you can use the same technique for red salsa, just substitute red tomatoes for the tomatillos. In addition, I’ve also included instructions at the bottom for how to turn this salsa into a sauce for chicken enchiladas verdes as well. Make them both — salsa verde and enchiladas are a fabulous combination!
8 medium-sized tomatillos, husked and wiped clean
4 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
1 white onion, peeled, trimmed of the root end, and quartered
3 jalapeno or serrano chile peppers (or a mix)
1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves
juice of 1/2 of a lime
1+ tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
On a large baking sheet, place the tomatillos, garlic cloves, onion quarters and chile peppers in a single layer. Drizzle with about a tablespoon of oil, and make sure the vegetables are nicely coated. Place under the broiler of your oven (about 2″ from the element) until the tops of the vegetables are nicely charred but not totally burnt (black spots should appear on the chiles and tomatillos). Watch that the garlic doesn’t burn since that will add bitterness to the salsa, turning and removing it before the other vegetables if needed. Flip the vegetables over and do the same on the other side. It should take about 3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.
Prepare the other ingredients (cilantro, lime juice, salt and cumin) and place in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add the charred vegetables and garlic to the processor as well. Pulse a few times, then purée for several seconds until nicely blended, and no large chunks remain. Taste and adjust salt and lime juice to taste and serve! [Note: salsa will keep nicely in the fridge in a closed container for several days.]
Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde:
1 medium white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 roast chicken (you can use one from your grocery store already roasted), meat torn into bite-sized chunks)
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves finely chopped
10 flour tortillas
6 ounces monterey jack cheese, shredded
6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add half of the chopped onions (reserve the rest for assembling the enchiladas), and cook until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cumin and flour, and mix well. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly so that the flour does not burn, then gradually add the chicken stock, again stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Once all chicken stock is added, continue to stir and cook until thickened. Add half of the salsa verde from the recipe above (reserve the rest for assembling the enchiladas), as well as the chicken meat and the cilantro. Taste and add salt if needed.
In a large baking pan (9×13 or larger), coat the bottom with a bit of the reserved salsa (just enough to smear the bottom completely). Lay a tortilla on a flat work surface, and using a spoon, coat both sides lightly with the salsa. Place about 1/4 cup of chicken filling in the middle, sprinkle with some of the cheeses, some of the onion, and then roll tightly. Place seam side down in the prepared baking dish, and repeat for all 10 tortillas, using all of the chicken filling if possible (I find it easiest to do 8 enchiladas across, then 2 across the bottom, lengthwise). Top the enchiladas with any remaining chicken filling, and remaining salsa verde (you should have at least 1/2 cup left), making sure all corners are moistened. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and onions. Bake for 30-40 minutes until hot and bubbly.
To serve, using two spatulas, place 1-2 enchiladas on each plate and garnish with sour cream and hot sauce, if desired.