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Tomatillos in late summer, with their sweet-sour flavor, are perfectly matched with chiles, lime, cream, garlic and any combination thereof. After a day of dreamily searching through recipes, I took elements of some of the best I saw, including an avocado and roasted tomatillo soup and braised chicken in tomatillo sauce, and came up with this winner of a chicken dinner. It’s very similar to dishes I’ve made in the past; the tomatillo sauce is just a few ingredients short of the salsa verde I can each fall, and the corn-avocado salsa is pretty much the way I make guacamole, plus corn. (But it didn’t seem like guacamole… hence the name.) I like tomatillo/verde sauces pretty spicy, so the recipe is written as a solid medium, edging toward hot, on the heat spectrum. (You can modify by substituting Anaheim chiles or seeding your Hatch chiles or jalapenos.) The relish is sweet and creamy, with a nice crunchy bite from the corn, the perfect cooling element to balance the spice of your sauce. Don’t want rice? Shred the cooked chicken with two forks and try this as a taco filling instead. As usual with the dishes I lean toward, it’s flexible, straightforward and absolutely delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

chicken thighs with roasted tomatillo sauce and avocado-corn salsa

Chicken with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce & Avocado-Corn Relish (serves 4)

  • 12 oz. fresh tomatillos, husked, washed and halved
  • 2 Hatch chiles or jalapenos, halved
  • canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T. fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • 1 T. fresh lime juice
  • 1 lb. skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • steamed rice
  • sour cream (optional)
  • cilantro (optional)

Start by roasting the vegetables for the tomatillo sauce. (Look ahead in the recipe– you can do the corn now, too.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a glass or ceramic dish (I used a glass 9″ x 13″ baking dish), coat the halved tomatillos and chiles with a splash of canola oil. Season with salt and roast for 20-30 mins., without stirring, until everything is softened. The tomatillos should be oozing juice and blistering slightly; nice charred spots are desirable. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool for about 15-20 mins. Add the slightly-cooled tomatillos and chiles, all the juices and scraped up browned bits that may be in your roasting pan, and the crushed garlic to a blender or food processor and pulse until you have a thick sauce. Taste and add more salt, maybe even a little more garlic, to suit your tastes. Set aside.

For the relish, cook your corn by boiling, grilling or roasting it, oiled and wrapped in foil, for 15 mins. while the tomatillos and chiles roast. Cool until you can handle it comfortably and remove the kernels from the ear into a medium bowl. Add the diced avocado, lime juice and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Stir gently to combine; taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

Cut your chicken into generous pieces, not bite-sized, but strips or chunks that will cook evenly. (From 1 lb. chicken thighs, I had 8 pieces of chicken.) Season with salt & pepper. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 T. canola oil and brown the chicken, about 5 mins. per side. Don’t worry about it being cooked through at this point, but you don’t want to see any pink spots. Add the reserved tomatillo sauce and oregano to the skillet and turn the chicken pieces so they’re coated in sauce. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 mins., until the sauce is bubbling and the chicken is cooked through.

Spoon steamed rice into a bowl and top with a few chicken pieces and some extra sauce. Dollop a generous amount of avocado-corn relish on top– you’ll want enough to get some with each bite of chicken. Garnish with sour cream and/or fresh cilantro and serve immediately. Store leftovers separately in tightly-covered containers so you can reheat the chicken when you’re ready to enjoy leftovers.