I found this recipe on the New York Times website with lots of basil with a bit of mint and tarragon substituted in to try to simulate the flavor of hoja santa. Well, no need for that for us lucky few. I traced it back to what looks like the original, from whence I got the Spanish name. It was buried on the third page of a Google search that ought to have popped it right up; Weird. Anyway, that page says it was published in the Dallas Morning News in 1998 as a preview of Diana Kennedy's cookbook: My Mexico. The NYT version only credits Martha Schulman, the author of the piece, but she did make some changes. For one, she broils the tomatillos rather than simmering them which seems an improvement to me. My version will mostly follow the NYT procedure with the big change of swapping out half the shrimp for potatoes, partially because the dish could use both a higher veg to meat ratio and partially because that's what I've got.
1/2 pound tomatillos
3-4 hoja santa leaves
2 smallish hot chilies, de-stemmed but not de-seeded
1 pinch anise seeds [substituting for maybe-poisonous avocado leaves]
1/4 cup water
5 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 large pinch salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 pound something else like potatoes or zucchini or more shrimp
1. Broil the tomatillos on a baking pan for 3-5 minutes on one side until charred [they'll start popping audibly at this point which is helpful], flip them over and broil 3-5 minutes more until that side is charred too. Remove to a blender or food processor making sure to keep the released juices.
2. Tear hoja santa, leaving the bigger veins behind [pretty easy actually]. Chop the chilies. Add both, the anise seeds and water, to the tomatillos. [Note from after the fact: also add one canned or dried-and-reconstituted chipotle pepper] Blend until smooth. Taste and season conservatively. Set aside.
3. Cook your something else until almost done [unless it's more shrimp].
4. Put garlic and salt in a mortar. Crush. Add olive oil and crush some more until you form a paste.
5. Add some more olive oil to a large pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add your something else if you want to get a bit of color on it. Season the shrimp then add it to the pan and cook about 2 minutes until not quite done. Remove both to a bowl.
6. Add garlic mixture to the pan and cook 30 seconds until aromatic. Add tomatillo mixture, bring to a boil, turn heat down to medium low, and cook around 5 minutes until the 1/4 cup of water has boiled out and the sauce has thickened slightly. Return the other ingredients and cook a few minutes more until everything is cooked through and the sauce coats the chunky bits.
Serve with tortillas if your something else wasn't starchy.
The sauce has the same tart, oddly herbal/medicinal flavor that I had a hard time describing the last time I made something using the combination. I doesn't pair particularly well with either the shrimp or the potatoes, but it doesn't actively clash either. You taste it, then you taste the shrimp but there's kind of a disconnect between.
Last year, I suggested adding some chipotle so I'm going to try that now to see if that helps matters... Yeah, it helps a whole lot. It lays a foundation for the tartness of the tomatillo and rounds out the hoja santa. It even makes the flavors blend with the shrimp. I can now honestly recommend making this dish if you add a chipotle or maybe some pimenton back in step two.