Last night I played with fire for dinner, and it was so good that I did it again today. I served boneless, skinless chicken breasts and rice with black beans and corn, topped generously with a more picante version of the Roasted Chile Verde Sauce from Isabel Cruz’s first cookbook, Isabel’s Cantina. The sauce is labor-intensive, but absolutely fabulous in terms of flavor, flexibility and healthiness. I made it blow-your-head-off hot, but the original recipe calls for the removal of most of the chiles’ seeds, so it could actually be quite a bit milder. I also had to use winter-pallid plum tomatoes, but I think this will be even better in the summer when I get fresh, locally grown produce.
There was sauce left over, so for lunch today I scrambled eggs with white Mexican cheese and poured the remaining Chile Verde over the top. Honestly, it was so damned good that for a minute I genuinely believed that I could whip up some mole, make some tortillas from scratch, and challenge Rick Bayless to a throw-down.
Restored to my senses, I offer you the recipe for the Chile Verde sauce. As Cruz notes in her book, it would also be good with pork, or simply served with tortilla chips. I’d also like it over burritos, I think. If you are serving it with chicken, try it over grilled or sauteed breasts, or even roast chicken parts. If eggs are your pleasure, try this over a creamy plate of scrambled specimens or atop two fried or over-easy on a heated tortilla.
Roasted Chile Verde Sauce
(Adapted from Isabels’ Cantina by Isabel Cruz)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced ( I used big garlic cloves; if you end up with the tiny ones I’d use 6 or 7)
- 4 Anaheim chiles, roasted and chopped
- 2 Poblano chiles, roasted and chopped
- 1 pound tomatillos, roasted and pureed
- 3 plum tomatoes, diced
- Kosher salt
- To roast chiles and tomatillos: cook over the flame of a gas grill or other fire source until skin turns black and begins to blister and peel. Place in a brown paper bag and leave for 15-20 minutes. Remove chiles and tomatillos from bag and remove skin with the bag or a paper towel or kitchen towel.
- To prepare chiles: Cut off stem ends and split in half lengthwise. (WEAR GLOVES and if you don’t wash hands very thoroughly before touching your eyes or other tender parts of your body). The heat is in the seeds, and Cruz’s original recipe calls for “removing and discarding the seeds,” easily done with a knife blade. If you remove the seeds, the sauce will be flavorful but quite mild. I left all of them in, which made the sauce extremely hot. You could also remove any other percentage of seeds and adjust the heat to your liking. Once you have removed the desired amount of seedage, roughly chop the chiles.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook onions and garlic for about 3 minutes. Add the chiles, tomatillo puree and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup cold water and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes or until thickened, and season with salt. (Note: the original recipe calls for adding 1 cup of water, but I found that at the end of 30 minutes the sauce was still very watery and had to be cooked over higher heat to evaporate some of the excess liquid. In future, I’ll start with the half cup, watch the sauce and add a little more water if it seems to be too chunky).
- Serve hot; sauce will keep in the refrigerator for three days.