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Tomatillos add citrusy, sweet flavor to Mexican dishes

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Kate Previte
Chilaquiles With Tomatillo Salsa

Well into autumn, hearty greens are still coming from the ground, and tomatillos are a season-finishing ingredient you should be cooking with. Also called “tomate verde,” tomatillos are essential in green salsas of Mexican cuisine. Not to be confused with a green tomato as we know it in America, the tomatillo is a citrusy, sweet-flavored, husked fruit, related to the husk cherry.

Unwrapping a tomatillo brings me almost as much joy as opening my first present on Christmas morning. Encased in this daintily paper-thin husk lays a bright fruit packing fresh punch in its green and white flesh. Before cooking, the inedible husks should be removed and the fruit’s sticky coating rinsed under running water. When I peel back those layers, I know it’s salsa time, and there is something that makes me giddy about homemade Chilaquiles With Tomatillo Salsa.

Though the fruit is comparable in size to an extra-large cherry tomato, the inside is much meatier. A member of the nightshade family, tomatillos now grow everywhere in the Western Hemisphere and are common especially in Texas gardens. While this species is a mere field weed in Mexico, I’d say it’s the most delicious weed I’ve ever encountered.

When buying tomatillos, look for small, firm fruits with tight-fitting husks. If you’re lucky enough to find them at a nearby farmers market in season, they are especially cheap. Their season is a long one, from May through November. I load up on dozens of tomatillos and store them in the freezer to retain the same flavors they had when dangling from the plant’s branches.

If you don’t want to use freezer space, store tomatillos in a paper bag in the refrigerator for no more than a month. Tomatillos have the same seasonality as hatch chiles, which pair incredibly well with this dish, so stock up on these spicy powerhouses at the farmers market, as well. Tomatillos can also spruce up stews if you love Mexican flavors in bone-warming broths throughout fall as much as I do.

Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 24 restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo.

Chilaquiles With Tomatillo Salsa

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 corn tortillas (3 yellow and 3 blue)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups Tomatillo Salsa (see recipe)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 12 cup white cheddar cheese, grated, divided

12 cup sour cream

Chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

In a 10-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it is smoking. Cut the tortillas into 8 wedges each, like a pie. Toss the tortilla pieces into the oil and cook until they are crisp, stirring constantly, and then remove the pieces to a paper towel to drain.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter to the pan and swirl until it is light golden brown. Add the eggs and the Tomatillo Salsa, season with salt and pepper and cook slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk, until soft curds form. Add the cooked tortillas and half of the cheese and stir through until just set.

To serve, place some of the eggs on each plate and sprinkle them with with 2 tablespoons of the cheddar cheese. Top with a dollop of the sour cream and garnish each serving with a tablespoon of the chopped cilantro leaves and a lime wedge.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Tomatillo Salsa

1 12 pounds tomatillos, husked and rinsed

3 cloves garlic

12 bunch of cilantro

1 serrano chile

2 limes, juiced, divided

1 orange, juiced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Roughly chop the tomatillos, garlic, cilantro and chile. (Use half the chile for less spice.) Add the ingredients to a blender, and squeeze in half the lime juice and the orange juice, and add a generous pinch of salt.

Blend until almost smooth, but leave a bit of texture to the sauce. Squeeze in the rest of the lime juice and adjust the seasoning.

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