The Daley Question
February 12, 2013
Q: Since green tomatoes are never found in the supermarket, I wonder how a tomatillo would be, sliced and fried. When I get a chance, I am going to try it. Thanks for any opinion or info.
—Sylvia Nightingale, Bellingham, Wash.
A: Do it: That's the advice I got when I posed your question to some experts in Southern and Mexican cooking. A tomatillo is known as the "Mexican green tomato," according to "The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion," and belongs to the same botanical family as the tomato. It looks, as the "Companion" duly notes like a green tomato except there's a thin papery husk on it, and a tomatillo is more tart and firm.
Try it—but use only fresh tomatillos, was the advice of Pati Jinich, who is official chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., hosts the public television cooking series, "Pati's Mexican Table," and is author of the upcoming cookbook, "Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30).
"Canned are good only for salsa and puree," she wrote in an e-mail.
Jinich said to make sure you peek through the husk at the fresh tomatillo before buying. The tomatillo should be green rather than white, unwrinkled and not soft.
Once home, make sure you remove all the papery husk. This can be slightly complicated because the husk sometimes sticks to the tomatillo. But don't try to rinse the husk off with water; you'll make it harder to peel, she wrote.
Thoroughly rinse the tomatillo after removing all the peel. Slice the tomatillo — it will be "much harder" than tomatoes even when fully ripe, she added — and proceed with your recipe.
"She will love the result," Jinich told me. "Tomatillos have a very unique tart taste that is spectacular and more tangy and citrusy than green tomatoes …The flavor will be fuller and more tart."
There are plenty of recipes for fried green tomatillos available online. Pick one that looks appealing and give it a try. Let me know how it goes.
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