August 26th, 2014: my perception of salsa verde changes forever.
Before ordering the huevos rancheros at Duluth Grill, I’d always thought of green salsa as more of a thin, pourable, mild condiment. I preferred a spicier, chunkier tomato salsa. Tostitos (blasphemy, I know, but there is a time and a place, and it’s usually at 1 AM when there aren’t a lot of options), homemade pico–just something with a little more heft and depth. Well, not only were (was?) the huevos at D.G. the best I’ve ever had, structured more like a casserole with layers of hash browns, black beans, hominy, and a crunchy-but-not-the-slightest-bit-chewy fried corn tortilla, but it turned me on to the glory of a good green chile salsa.
Of course, I immediately interrogated our super hospitable and friendly hostess as to the recipe and the origin of the chiles. Did they grow them in those huge gardens out front? (Although the answer was no, they do grow loads of their own produce for infinite other menu items.) Was the recipe in their cookbook for sale on site? Yes? Sold.
And so here we are. I knew Steve was a brainiac, but when he suggested combining our entrees in the form of salsa-covered mac and cheese, he took it to astrophysicist level. This is the salsa called for in my roux-less (gluten-free) bacon mac and cheese, also an adaptation of the mac from Duluth Grill. The salsa gets its body from the tomatillos and some fresh chopped veggies (including raw green pepper), its spice from several types of chili peppers, and its freshness from a healthy handful of cilantro. If you hate cilantro, you can leave it out. I love it personally, so I haven’t experimented with substitutes, but you may want to throw in some chopped green onions to replace that missing element. They’re more flavorful and less potent than the red onions.
I adjusted the heat to my preference and only slightly by using less of the habanero than the recipe called for and mild green chiles. Here are some options for adjusting the spice level further:
- Make it milder: omit the habanero; remove jalapeno seeds before roasting
- Make it hotter: use the entire habanero; use 2 jalapenos; get hot canned green chiles
Serve the mac and cheese with extra salsa on the side. Leftovers would also be phenomenal in the huevos rancheros recipe from my eCookbook! Let me know what other ways you eat it.
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- 1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, and pierced in a few places with a sharp knife point
- 2 poblano peppers (1/4 lb.), stemmed and halved lengthwise (don’t seed)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and halved lengthwise (don’t seed)
- ½ habanero pepper, stemmed and chopped small (but not minced; wear gloves when handling)
- ¼ C roughly chopped cilantro
- 1 small roma tomato (or other variety), seeded and chopped
- 2 T finely chopped red onion
- ½ green pepper, diced
- Half a 4 oz. can green chiles (2 oz.; I used fire roasted mild)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place tomatillos, poblanos, cut side up, and jalapeno, cut side up in an old, well-seasoned rimmed baking pan or 9×13 (it will get dirty from the sugars in the tomatillo juices).
- Roast for about 30 minutes, turning the tomatillos and rotating the pan halfway through. The peppers will blacken and the tomatillos should turn at least golden. Allow to cool slightly. Discarding extra juices from the pan, roughly chop the tomatillos and roasted peppers and place in a food processor or blender. Add cilantro and habanero pepper and pulse only about 10 times, until the mixture is chopped but still chunky. Stir in tomato, red onion, green pepper, canned chiles, salt, and pepper (to taste). Store in the refrigerator until it’s gone! It should keep for a week.