I grew up in the 1980’s rural Midwest. Exotic food for us was canned La Choy Chow Mein on Minute Rice. Very vanilla. Very homogeneous. It has taken some effort as an adult to expand my tastes and experiences, and even though many of my friends are far more adventurous eaters, I’ve learned to appreciate ingredients that confounded me as a younger person. One example is tomatillos. They look like a paper-covered green tomato, and when you pull the paper off, they’re sticky. So weird. I didn’t associate them with green salsa, and I didn’t find them as an ingredient with any of the Southeastern Iowa Mexican food that was available to me as a kid.
I first cooked with Tomatillos several years ago when I got a pile of them as part of a farm share. I don’t remember what I made with them, but I remember being shocked at their deliciousness. Mild. Slightly acidic. Just pure yumminess.
This is a quick braise that pairs roasted poblanos with tomatillos and lots of garlic. If you prep all the ingredients in the morning, this can easily be put together as a weeknight meal, and it’s delicious. I used a mix of thighs and legs, but you can add breast as well, just realize it will cook sooner and you’ll need to pull it out sooner if it’s mixed with dark meat.
To roast the poblanos, place them under a high broiler to char, rotating until all sides are black, then place them in a paper bag for 10 minutes. The steam will loosen the skins, and you can peel it off, remove the seeds, and chop.
Leftover sauce can be used as a garnish for eggs or tacos. Or egg tacos.
Braised Chicken with Chilies and Tomatillos
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 3-4 lb chicken pieces skin on and bone-in
- 1 large Spanish onion finely chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 4 poblano peppers roasted, peeled, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
- 2 lbs tomatillos paper removed, rinsed, and cut in quarters
- 3 Tbs cilantro leaves finely chopped
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- Juice of one small lime or half a large lime
- Kosher salt and white pepper
- Warm flour tortillas
- Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a lidded Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then brown the chicken well on both sides. 7 or 8 minutes. You will need to cook in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot.
- Reduce heat to medium, then add onions, stirring often until softened, but not browned. 3-5 minutes. Add broth and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom or sides of the pot, then add the poblanos, garlic, tomatillos, cilantro, and cumin. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Return the chicken and accumulated juices to the pot, nestling it amongst the sauce, then cover and simmer 20-30 minutes until cooked through and tender. White meat will cook sooner than dark, so if you’re using both, pull the white pieces out first and allow the dark to finish up.
- Remove the chicken to a plate, tenting it with foil, then increase the heat to medium-high. Add the lime juice and cook, allowing the flavors to marry and the sauce to thicken slightly. Adjust seasoning.
- Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with whole cilantro leaves. Serve with warm flour tortillas.