This column was originally published in the Hamilton County Herald on Feb. 20, 2015.
Fajitas and nachos. These are two of my favorite Mexican dishes, so why not combine them? The recipe below is great at doing just that, and it’s a wonderful dish I’m sure you’ll love. Not only that, it’s a great party dish. Set up a nacho bar, and let guests personalize their nachos. Have fun with this one!
This recipe requires tomatillos, which look like little green tomatoes. You can usually find these little fruits in the fresh produce aisle of the supermarket, and they aren’t too terrible expensive. If you’ve never played around with these, this recipe is a good opportunity to do so – they’re kind of neat, and it makes you feel like you’re cooking an authentic Mexican dish!
The name means “little tomato,” which brings to mind a vegetable – and they look like small green tomatoes wrapped in a paper-like flower – but actually, tomatillos are small fruits. They’re a bit tart, yet slightly sweet, with a hint of citrus.
The star of Mexican salsas, the tomatillo is just one of nearly 100 physalis species, a group of fruits enclosed in papery calyxes. They’re called “Chinese lantern plants” because of this unusual formation.
There are two main types of tomatillos, but the large green ones, which are about the size of a ping-pong ball, are most the common. The yellow color of some tomatillos indicates ripeness, but they’re more often used green, those being firmer and easier to slice. This is the type grown commercially in California, Mexico, the American Southwest, and India.
The Aztecs first grew tomatillos as far back as 800 B.C., but American palates didn’t taste the tomatillo until the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. They’re now grown in Texas and California.
Select tomatillos with intact, tight-fitting, light brown husks. If you peel back some of the husk, it should be firm and free of blemishes. Canned tomatillos are available and can be used in sauces.
Fresh tomatillos with the husk still intact can be refrigerated in a brown paper bag for up to two weeks. Tomatillos last slightly longer with husks removed and then sealed plastic bags. Be sure to keep refrigerated.
Remove husks and then wash fruit with soap and water to remove film. Most recipes require simmering about five minutes, then chopping or mashing. Tomatillos can be used raw or cooked.
The Tomatillos can be roasted alongside the salsa in the oven.
2 pound Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients in 13 by 9 inch baking pan sprayed with nonstick oil; roast 45 minutes. Remove from oven; mash with potato masher. Set aside.
Tomatillo Cream Sauce
1 pound tomatillos, hulled
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tall-purpose flour
2 cups milk or Half-and-Half
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients in baking dish. Roast 35 minutes. Cool slightly, then pulse in food processor until chunky. Set aside.
Melt butter in saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux, cook for two minutes, stirring often. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Cook until thick (10 minutes) season with salt. Stir in tomatillo mixture and heat though. Thin with warm milk if too thick.
1 1/2 pound flank steak
1 1/2 pound boneless chicken breast
1 package fajita seasoning mix
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Season meats with Fajita Mix. Heat oil in skillet over med-high heat. Sauté meats, one at a time. Slice then cut into bite size pieces.
Top tortilla chips with meat, tomatillo cream, and roasted salsa. Garnish with chopped lettuce, diced avocado, diced tomatoes, chopped scallions, chopped cilantro, shredded Monterey Jack and Colby Cheeses, warmed black beans.
Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.