Wanna get roasty flavor from your tomatillos and tomatoes without added oil or turning on the oven? Try pan-roasting, an old Mexican technique that I learned about from Reed Hearon’s La Parrilla: The Mexican Grill (Chronicle Books 1996).
According to Hearon, Pan-roasting dates back to the times when Mexicans didn’t have enough natural fats available to fry or sauté. It is pretty easy and gives an added depth to those bursting-with-freshness summer flavors. Just cook whole vegetables at a low temperature till they brown thoroughly and Bob’s Your Uncle!
When choosing tomatillos, look for tightly wrapped husks and very skin stretched tightly over firm flesh. They are in season now (Here’s an oven-roasted charred salsa recipe for variation) and add the slightest of sweet fruitiness to this salsa.
Don’t limit yourself to chips and salsa; I used this on grilled fish with very felicitous results. Órale…
Pan-Roasted Tomatillo and Tomato Salsa
8-10 tomatillos, husked and rinsed clean
An equal amount of tomatoes (Roma preferred)
One thick center slice of onion (1/2’), peeled, but not separated
1 habanero pepper, whole (more, if you want more heat)
Three cloves garlic, unpeeled
Salt, pepper, squeeze of fresh lime, and hot sauce to taste
Heat a skillet or griddle (smooth, not grooved like a grill pan) on low to medium-low. When warm, place all the vegetables, including garlic in pan and allow to cook slowly, turning occasionally. You don’t want them to char or burn; you want them to brown and become tender. You can remove faster cooking vegetables as they brown. When all vegetables are soft and brown, remove. Carefully peel garlic. Even more carefully, open habanero(s) and remove stem, core and seeds (use gloves; wash hands thoroughly and don’t touch your eyes!). Place vegetables in food processor and process to desired smoothness. Add salt, pepper, lime, and optional hot sauce to taste. Serve with tortilla chips, or with grilled or fried fish.