One day, on our way back from a camping trip, we stopped in Santa Barbara to try out a taco stand that we'd heard about for a while. An old haunt of the lovely Julia herself, we were sure it would be wonderful. Judging by the line around the block, so was everyone else within a 50 mile radius.
While there were many things I loved about this place, there were two simple (even basic) items that particularly stood out. . .
. . . the tomatillo sauce. . .
. . . and the tortillas.
Like a good loaf of bread, you can't beat the simple perfection of a fresh tortilla made by hand with love. Oh, and that amazing tomatillo sauce. . . rich and emulsified with a distinct coriander backdrop. So. Very. Good. While I wasn't able to capture the complete essence of the sauce (yet!) I was very happy with this one. It's not a salsa (I wouldn't eat it with a bowl of chips), but it's pretty fantastic on a taco. Now I don't have to drive quite so far to eat Julia's favorites.
- 1lb fresh tomatillos, husked
- 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic,roughly chopped
- 1 serrano chili pepper, chopped
- 1/2 a teaspoon cumin
- 1-1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed (freshly ground)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- salt to taste
- 2 cups Masa Harina (available at most grocery stores in the specialty food aisle)
- 1-1/4 cup warm water
- pinch of salt
- vegetable oil (for frying)
Place all of the ingredients for the sauce (except the olive oil and only add 2 tablespoons of cilantro) into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer until the tomatillos are soft.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse until very well combined. Once everything is incorporated add the cilantro and oil and pulse a few more times until the salsa is emulsified. Adjust your seasoning (hint--> if it is too sour for your taste you can add a bit of sugar). Store in a jar in the fridge.
To make the tortillas, mix the masa, salt, and water. If your dough us too crumbly add a bit of water, and if it is too sticky, add a little more masa. Kneed the dough until it is smooth and pliable. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 30 minutes.
After the dough has rested, make balls that are about 1-1/4" in diameter and press with a tortilla press between parchment paper or plastic wrap. You can also form them by hand if you don't have a press (although they are a great tool especially when most are fairly inexpensive, around $10-$15). Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle and add a bit of vegetable oil. I've tried olive oil, butter, and even bacon grease, but the flavor of vegetable oil seems to be subtle enough to allow you to really enjoy the simplicity of a fresh tortilla.
Once you have your tortillas and tomatillo sauce compose your tacos and eat them while they're hot! I chose to make shredded beef tacos using this slow cooker recipe (I used tri tip instead of skirt steak and it turned out wonderfully) but you could make any taco variety you like. I also added one of my favorite taco additions: thinly sliced radishes soaked in fresh lime juice.
With the Kids:
*Last time in Recipes: Black and White Mini Tres Leches