(Orignially published in Damned Intellectuals, August 2003)
The first time I made Tomatilla Salsa was a bit of a disaster. It was the middle of summer and I'd gotten up early to take advantage of the (relatively) cool kitchen. I'd gotten things organized and wandered off to surf through a few websites before going back into the kitchen to check on the tomatillos, chilies and garlic roasting in the oven. It's a sad fact that I'd forgotten to light the oven. It's a sadder fact that I miscalculated how long the gas had been on. Have you ever opened an oven full of gas with a lit match in your hand? I don't advise it. I had to delay everything until I could brush all of the singed hair off my head, inspect what was left of my eyebrows and immerse my face in a sink of cold water.
Tomatillo salsa is easy to make, really - so long as you observe proper gas oven safety rules - and fairly quick.
Roast about a pound and a half of tomatillos with some serrano chili peppers (I use about four, but adjust to your own heat tolerance) and three or four unpeeled cloves of garlic. It's good to let them char, because it just adds a nice smoky carcinogenic flavor to the salsa. Check on them occasionally and turn them over. If you set your head on fire, try to avoid dropping singed hair into the pan.
While things are charring, whirl a couple of garlic cloves and about half a cup of cilantro in a processor. Chop up a large onion separate from the cilantro and garlic.
Once the roasting is done, peel the garlic cloves and carefully remove stems and seeds from the peppers. If you refuse to wear kitchen gloves while doing this, wash your hands immediately and try not to touch your eyes or any sensitive areas for 24 hours. Do not think washing your hands will make your fingers safe enough. It won't. Incidentally, you might want to save the seeds to toss back in later, if the salsa needs more heat.
Dump the tomatillos, seeded peppers and garlic into the processor and let it whirl. When it looks right, add the onion and whirl it some more.
The result is quite a lot of tomatillo salsa, very nice with huevos rancheros, which I proceeded to make for brunch.
As a side note, I'd like to add that frying tortillas in hot oil is not something one should do when wearing only a tee shirt and underpants. Little red burn-dots on the thighs are unsightly and painful. My wise children conspired to distract me by things various and domestic, and we somehow ended up on a roller coaster at Rye Playland. I also went on a water flume and got quite damp, which was very soothing to my assorted burned parts.