11/03/2011 05:13 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Work With Tomatillos

Tomatillos are a staple of Mexican cuisine, and chef Iliana de la Vega of The Culinary Institute of America offers some simple tips for choosing and working with them. First, she advises shoppers to look for tomatillos that have a nice, tight husk -- a loose husk is a sign that the fruit was picked prematurely. Once you peel the husk away, rinse them before using -- they can be sticky.

People tend to think of tomatillos as green tomatoes, but they belong to a different category. They have a pleasantly acidic flavor, and work well with cilantro and other Mexican flavor profiles.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Iliana de la Vega from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to work with tomatillos.

We have here a bowl of tomatillos. You may have seen them in the supermarket, and they look just like this. First of all: how to pick them, how to choose which are better than others? Well, this is what we don't want. The husk is too loose, and that means it was picked before it was completely full and mature inside the husk. This one is perfect. This is what you are looking for: fully ripe inside the husk.

What you do now is you just open it, peeling down the husk just like this, and remove it from the stem. Now you have here a beautiful, perfect tomatillo. Sometimes they are kind of sticky, so they need to be rinsed before you cook with them, or before you eat them. Normally we put them in a blender and make salsas, but the taste is very nice so I suggest you taste them. Blend them, chop them, dice them - almost like cooking with a tomato. This is more acidic than a tomato, and it has a very fresh taste. It goes really well with cilantro, so you can make a salsa verde. It is one of the basic ingredients in Mexican cooking.