The tomatillo sauce is the real star here, which you can use with so many things aside from chicken--fish, lamb, pork, shrimp tacos, as a dip with tortilla chips, etc. And truth be told, I wasn't quite finished thinning out the sauce when this picture was taken, so it's a bit thicker than it should be. The inspiration for the sauce came friend my friend Claudia, whose son Tim is one of Christian's closest friends. Christian loves Claudia's cooking (as we all do!) and gets to eat much of it on his annual summer visits to their home on Montana's beautiful Flathead Lake. After returning from one of his recent sojourns, Christian raved about Claudia's tomatillo sauce and said I must get the recipe. Claudia shared her recipe but pointed out that she doesn't really work with measurements for this sauce--she's found it turns out roughly the same whatever the proportions. In order to offer a little extra guidance, I'm including some measurements below. You can boil or broil the tomatillos (although I've only tried the latter option). The result has a different tone, according to Claudia--"the boiled one being fresher, the broiled more meaty." And while Claudia roasts her chiles and garlic over a flame or in a pan, to simplify things, I just roast them in the oven at the same time I'm roasting the tomatillos. Tomatillo sauce freezes well, so I suggest you do yourself a favor and make extra and freeze the leftovers. It's sooooo yummy!
Ingredients for Tomatillo Sauce
Makes 2-3 cups
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatillos
- 2 jalapeño chiles
- 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped (you'll need a second one if boiling tomatillos)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Hot water (about 1/4 cup), if needed, to thin out the sauce
- Fresh squeezed lime juice, if desired
1. Husk the tomatillos and wash under warm water to remove stickiness.
2. Place whole tomatillos, jalapeños and unpeeled garlic on a baking sheet and broil them close to the flame 'til there is charring happening. Turn once. When charred and softened, remove from the oven. Place jalapeños in bowl, cover and wait 'til they've cooled. Set tomatillos and garlic aside to cool, as well. (If you'd prefer to boil the tomatillos, cut them in half and place them in a pot of boiling water with a peeled, halved onion. Boil for a few minutes 'til they are bright green and remove from water.)
3. Coarsely chop onion and sauté in 2 tbsps. olive oil until soft and turning brown. Set aside.
4. Wash and dry cilantro and divide in half. Chop half of it very fine, leave the other half as is.
5. When jalapeños have cooled, pull off the tops. Claudia suggests peeling the the peppers at this point. I've also left the skin on, which imparts a smokier flavor.
6. When garlic has cooled, peel the cloves.
7. Puree all of the ingredients (using only the unchopped half of cilantro) in a blender. It might take several batches. If it's too thick, add some hot water.
8. Heat about a ¼ cup of olive oil in a wide deep pan, and add pureed mixture. It will sizzle and bubble. Cook at a pretty active boil 'til it thickens a bit--about 10 minutes. Then add the chopped cilantro. Adjust for salt/pepper. Add a little lime juice at this point, if you'd like, and more hot water, if needed. Set aside.
Ingredients for Spicy Grilled Chicken
- 3 pounds skinless chicken breast
- 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground Mexican chipotle pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- Cilantro leaves for garnish
- Wash chicken and pat dry.
- Combine chipotle pepper, cumin, garlic, oregano, salt & pepper, olive oil and 1/2 of the lime juice in a bowl and mix well to form a paste. Rub into chicken 'til well coated all over. Wash hands well.
- Cover and refrigerate chicken for at least one hour. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before ready to grill.
- Heat grill to 400°. Grill on lightly oiled grill rack for 6-8 minutes per side, depending on how thick each breast is. (I use a gas grill and keep it covered.)
Remove from heat, pour rest of lime juice over chicken and let stand loosely covered with foil for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with Tomatillo Sauce and cilantro for garnish.