Sometimes you see something in a catalogue, that piques your curiosity and you have a wee corner in the garden with no real plans for, or can do a bit of strategic rearranging to make it fit. Often it is something new and exciting and your heart leaps for joy at the thought of watching this exciting addition unfold over the season. Or it something you have always wanted to try but had never really got around to it, but the seeds finally arrive for the season, and there in your hot little hands is this gem of the season – the exciting plant among the carrots, cucumber and leek seeds.
Or maybe it was just me, but there I was in the first flush of spring with my coveted tomatillo seeds in my hot little hands – well actually they we cold shaky hands because it was spring after all. There is so much exhilaration in opening a seed packet and peering inside at the unfamiliar seeds and wondering just how they will grow in the garden. It is one thing to read about it, and do all the research, but seeing it growing in situ is something else. Plants can respond quite differently in different environments.
My research had brought to my attention that I should really plant more than one plant to improve the chances of a bountiful harvest. In my enthusiasm I decided to turn it up a notch and planted four, just to be certain and planted them out beside a sturdy stake once the risk of frost has passed, expecting it to grow more like it’s near name sake. It may be in the same family but it is a distant cousin and has more in common with the fragile nature of capsicum branches and a tad more sprawling. In hindsight it would have been better to have caged them for support as I spent most of the summer trying to restrain them from lolling about the garden bed, swallowing up the okra.
Finally, after many months waiting, the moment arrived when it seemed that it could possibly be the right time actually eat this much anticipated delight. But there was one problem. I’d never even held one before, eat alone eaten one. What should I expect? Can you eat them raw or do they need cooking? An extending spot of searching on the great big internet gave me the confidence to harvest a couple… just to check it out. The husk was all papery like I expected, and the sticky surface didn’t come as a surprise. I just washed it off, cut it in half and handed half to Hubby the Un-Gardener to try and waited for his reaction. He seemed to like it, so I tried my half and found it strangely savoury, yet faintly sweet at the same time, like nothing I’d ever eaten before.
More searching on the great big internet told me that it makes a great winter stew, but it really isn’t stew weather just yet as it is still very hot. Fortunately, they freeze well so I am looking forward to trying them as the weather cools. But I want to try them now, in the peak of ripeness so chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce sounds just the ticket. The problem is each recipe, while slightly similar are all very different and not being one to completely follow recipes I came up with what worked best for me. It is probably quite inauthentic but it was delish!
I took the tomatillos and husked them and washed off that awful sticky stuff on the surface and put them in a roasting pan with garlic, onion and a couple of chillies – a jalapeno and a cornos. I didn’t have the authentic poblanos – maybe something to grow next year.
While these were roasting in the oven on about 200°C for about 10 minutes, I fried up some chicken tenderloins – because it was what we had and made them all golden brown.
The contents of the roasting pan became soft and charred at the same time so I popped the contents into my blender – minus the seeds and stalk from the chillies and whizzed them all up and added salt until it tasted about right. I should have added lashing of fresh coriander at this point, but it appears to have been overcome by the rampant horseradish – that I never use and I couldn’t find it. It seemed optional in most recipes as apparently to some people it taste it as quite soapy – which can’t be nice.
Assembly couldn’t have been more simple the tortillas were dolloped with a generous scoop of the tomatillo sauce and then the browned chicken which had been shredded early and a sprinkling of grated cheese where wrapped up and gently placed in a casserole dish then repeat until the dish is full. Diced onion, more tomatillo sauce and more cheese is scattered over the top and then baked in the oven at 180°C for 20 minutes to warm up the chicken, melt the cheese and make the exposed bits of tortilla crispy.
I was supposed to garnish it with sour cream and coriander, however thanks to the horseradish there was no coriander and my hunger made me forget my sour cream. I’m sure that would have been a fine addition.
But what did my family think? They loved it, gobbled it up and went back for more. Delish where the words being licked from their lips.
Come again soon – the bed the tomatillo were in contains other interesting things I can’t wait to try.
Sarah the Gardener : o)