At Cooking by the Book in New York City, we do culinary outward bound events. Firms come to our kitchen and prepare a meal together, often with kitchen challenges. Their night’s menu has been set in advance, from a quarterly menu featuring fresh seasonal ideas. We are always amazed when so many firms pick the same menu items. We can offer five appetizers, but 90% of the time firms will independently select the one same recipe.
This shrimp cocktail is an example. People are just intrigued by the idea of shrimp and tomatillo, they select it for their teambuilding gig here, and they are never disappointed.
There is something “special” about a shrimp cocktail. It always seems to be a treat. Now, with this recipe, you add some new flavor muscle. Once you’ve tried this recipe, it may just become your standard.
The sauce here is probably one you never had with shrimp before. Spinach? Honey? Rice vinegar? Amazingly good.
Shrimp Tomatillo Cocktail
Yield: serves 6 to 8
For the shrimp:
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 lemons, quartered
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
For the sauce:
12 tomatillos, cost and rinsed
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 jalapeno peppers
3 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups fresh spinach
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
¼ cup horseradish, drained
Prepare the shrimp. Combine 8 cups water, 2 tablespoons salt, the coriander and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the wedges. Boil 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the shrimp, cover and set aside, about 15 minutes. Strain and transfer the shrimp to a bowl. Cover and chill at least one hour.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapenos in a roasting pan and toss with the canola oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until soft, tossing occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cook the spinach in a saucepan of boiling water, about one minute. Drain, squeeze dry and transfer to a food processor. Add the tomatillo mixture, vinegar, horseradish, cilantro and honey and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill at least one hour. Bring to room temperature 15 minutes before serving. Serve the sauce and shrimp in shot glasses, if desired.
Source: Food Network Magazine
My first taste of green salsa was at a now long-gone New York City restaurant. The food there was good, the salsa amazing. I use to buy that green stuff by the pint and bring it home.
The core ingredient in green salsa is the tomatillo. Often referred to as green tomatoes or Mexican tomatoes, the tomatillo is not a green tomato. It’s only distantly related to red tomatoes. Now available year round in the produce section of your market, they come with a distinctive leafy husk and vary in size. Eight medium size tomatillos should tip the scale at about one pound.
And they come canned, both whole and crushed.
All of which means, that tomatillo salsa can be created in many variations. I just went through a dozen Mexican cookbooks and found 20 very different recipes. All the recipes use tomatillos, some garlic, and some cilantro. After that the fun begins. Recipes call for adding different chiles, sugars, juices and spices. The proportions used for, say, onions vary from 2 tablespoons to one full onion.
With that variety, you can generate an entire family of green salsas. Here’s the big dividing point: what do you do with the the tomatillos? Use them raw, cook them, or open a can? Everything ends up in a blender anyway, but the different methods do yield distinctive flavors.
This first recipe, from the wonderful book Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, is the easiest. Raw tomatillos, garlic and cilantro plus some chili heat are put in a blender and voila. You’re soon done.
This salsa is surely the freshest. You can refrigerate and use it for several days. One thing you need to know about tomatillos, as you pull of the husk, your fingers will feel sticky. Tomatillos are rich in pectin. This Bayless recipe is absolutely thin when it comes out of the blender. After a day in refrigerator, the pectin has kicked in and you have a paste, not a salsa. Just mix in some water, whisk, and you can restore the salsa to any consistency you desire.
As for that long-gone Mexican restaurant where I used to buy salsa, I worried about what would happen if it ever closed. I experimented and came up with my own version which is a pretty good match. Later this week, I’ll give you that tasty, easy recipe using canned tomatillos.
But first, let’s start raw and simple. Find that bag of chips, open a Mexican beer, and enjoy.
Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Yield: 1 ½ cups
4 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
1 large garlic clove
2 serrano or 1 jalapeno chile, stemmed and roughly chopped [more or less heat to suit you]
2/3 cup, loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
Place the tomatillos, garlic, chiles and cilantro in a blender or food processor. And ¼ cup water and a generous ½ teaspoon salt. Process to a coarse puree. Pulse if necessary to first process the tomatillos. Add small amount of additional water if necessary.
Source: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless