The American South may have fried green tomatoes, but there’s another version of the nightshade plant that has been popular for centuries in Mexico. The tomatillo, the tomato’s little cousin, can be found in most grocery stores wrapped in its papery husk that, once discarded and cleaned of a slightly sticky residue, finds a firm, green, and slightly tart fruit, the framework of salsa verde.
Here, purée tomatillos with cilantro and dark green poblano peppers to create a subtly spicy, creamy sauce that envelops the salmon while it bakes, guaranteeing a moist, flavorful outcome.
Baked Salmon in Tomatillo-Cilantro Sauce Recipe
1 T unsalted butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatillos
2 shallots, chopped
2 poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
Note: Poblano peppers, sometimes called ancho peppers when dried, rate between 1,000-2,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) on the Scoville scale, which is on the low end of pungency or spicy heat. In other words, this pepper is not a tongue-burner or eye-waterer.
1/4 cup packed, coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream or créme fraîche
salt to taste
2 T lime juice
2 8 ounce center cut salmon fillets, skinned
Note: ask your fishmonger to skin the salmon for you. They’re generally happy to oblige, and a skilled one will be able to do it in minutes.
2 T pine nuts
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, remove from heat, and whisk to form a smooth paste.
Scrape paste into a blender. Add tomatillos, shallots, peppers, cilantro, broth, and sour cream. Purée until smooth. Pour sauce back into skillet. Add salt and lime juice to taste.
Rinse fish and dry with paper towels or cloth. Place in glass baking dish.
Bring sauce to low boil, stirring. Pour over fish, covering evenly.
Bake fish for 20 minutes, or until it flakes with a fork.
In small, dry skillet, toast pine nuts until golden for about 3-4 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent from burning.
Transfer fish to warmed, shallow bowls. Spoon sauce over and sprinkle pine nuts on top.
I asked Stephanie Davis, wine educator with Winacea, about wine pairings for this dish. She suggested a recommendation from her local wine purveyor, Adam Ridge at Supermarket Liquors. Castelfeder is a well respected producer that distributes widely. With beautiful citrus notes and feel-good body in your mouth, Stephanie is certain this fine Pinot Grigio will play nice with the tangy, spicy salmon.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, because living brings its own humor, angst and heroism. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @where she hopes you’ll find illumination of the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Vodka and recipes optional.