Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On Braising vs. Just Stewing & Poblano + Pasilla Chile Chicken Stew

I have a rare moment of extended toddler self-containment (Thank you, Land Before Time!), so no time like the present to bang out a recipe.

There is a big part of me that longs to indulge my writing and the ability to sit here and stare at a blank screen for as long as it takes to cook up a longer musing on life related stuff, but it's tempered by other satisfaction that has come in the form of returning to teaching (cooking) and stealing moments in the evening to work on music with Dean. 

That whole having it all, just not all at once thing, I guess. :)

But back to the task! Last week, Dean asked for "some slow-cooked Mexican-type goodness," so I put this together and made a taco night of it. We thought it turned out worthy of a recipe post, so here goes...

I think Tim Ferriss argued in The 4-Hour Chef that the difference resulting from the extra effort that goes into braising (searing/browning/sauteing components before boiling/simmering) versus just stewing is a mostly esoteric one, appreciated mostly by those who like to go to the trouble of doing it, and hardly detected by the rest. I used to reject the notion more fervently, but I think it's because I've mellowed and evolved into less of a dickhead/blowhard cook/foodie that I tend to agree with him more these days.

It's not that there isn't a difference in the development and layering of flavor as well as a slight difference in texture, because there absolutely is. It's not that I don't still thoroughly enjoy a very slow, longhand approach to cooking when life permits. It's not that there aren't some people in my life other than me who appreciate the result as well. And it's not that a good cook shouldn't understand the difference.

But the difference is mostly lost on people who just aren't as concerned about it as those of us who are, but who are still as capable of enjoying a good meal.

In my experience, proper reduction on the tail end yields greater benefit for effort than searing/sauteing on the front end, but this is all a very long way to say that you could just dump all the ingredients into a pot, give them a good stir or three, bring them to a boil for a minute or two, simmer for a good while with the lid askew, and then reduce for a shorter while with the lid off and still get something better than just good enough, and if that's what works for you on the day you make this recipe, go for it.

Almost no one will be the wiser. ;)

Poblano & Pasilla Chile Chicken Stew
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About an hour

- 3.5 pounds chicken thighs and/or drums, seasoned with 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- an additional 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch wide slices 
- 1 large fresh poblano chile, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips (you can use 1 small green bell pepper in a pinch)
- 2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1.5 teaspoons dried pasilla chile powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground achiote
- 1 bay leaf
- optional: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder for heat and smokiness
- 1.5 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 1.5 cups water

1) In a large pot, bring your oil up to medium high heat and sear the chicken on both sides for 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

2) Stir in your onion, pepper, garlic, tomatoes, and saute for 3 or 4 minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent.

3) Add the pasilla, achiote, and bay, (and chipotle if you're using it) and stir it into the rest of the ingredients, and let them bloom a bit in the hot oil.

4) Add the lime juice, water, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, give the mixture a couple of stirs, and cover completely until you hear the stew boiling (should be 5 to 7 minutes).

5) At that point, set the lid slightly askew (like an 1/8" opening on one side), turn the heat down to medium low, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you can scrape any burnt solids from the bottom of the pot during this process, your heat's a little too high, and you should adjust it down slightly.

6) Remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes to allow the liquids to reduce and concentrate in flavor. About halfway into this last simmer period is when you should taste the stew and adjust the seasoning for more salt and/or spices if you like. This will give the added seasoning time to meld. Always increase salt and spices in small amounts - you can always add, but you can't subtract.

Steamed white rice or my Cilantro Garlic Rice would be a great starch accompaniment to this meal, but we went for tacos this time around with charred corn tortillas, pico de gallo, some cabbage, and some crema agria (Mexican sour cream).

¡Buen provecho! :)


Monday, August 24, 2015

Cork Genius

So I've been collecting wine corks forever thinking that someday, I'll do something really cool and creative with them.

Well that day came last week when I dumped them all into my money tree planter while telling myself what a cool and creative idea it was.

The money tree does not seem to mind the shade, and I continue to be easily impressed with myself. :D

Win-win. :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Burgers Are Happening...

I told myself when my first beefsteaks ripen, we'll have hand ground, grilled ribeye homeburgers with fat, juicy slices of beefsteak in them to celebrate.

Looks like burgers are happening sometime very soon... :)))

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dishwasher Detergent Substitute That Works in a Pinch

So I ran out of dishwasher detergent last night with a dishwasher full of dirty dishes and was not remotely in the mood to leave the house.

But I needed clean dishes for today's California Roll & Miso Soup Cookshop, and thanks to the Googs, there's almost always a feasible Plan B you don't know about yet.

I scrolled through a couple of recipes involving ingredients I didn't have on hand and then came across this Homemaking on the Homestead post that went into way more detail than I'm going to go into about using plain dishwashing liquid and baking soda.

And it worked!

I used:

- about 1/2 teaspoon of Dawn + about 1 Tablespoon baking soda in the detergent compartment
- 1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar in the rinse agent compartment

And ran the dishwasher, et Voila! Clean, sparkling dishes.

Like the OP, I have some concerns about whether this is a workable regular solution - not sure how that much baking soda on the regular would fare with the plumbing, and I'm thinking you'd probably get more than the usual buildup over time - but it absolutely worked in a pinch with three ingredients I always have on hand.

My dishes aren't as artificially scented as they usually are with the dishwasher tabs, but they're absolutely clean.

Thanks again, internets! :D


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Delicious Memory

Sometimes I like to look back at old cooking albums to remind myself of what cooking used to be like when I had more time to indulge myself in the kitchen.

Uni spaghetti with finger lime caviar and microgreens.

That was fun. And delicious. :)

Full cooking album HERE.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Emmmpanadas... :)

Today was spent making scratch picadillo empanadas for a friend who spoils us with the most amazing freshly caught ocean fish.

Pastry recipe HERE. Picadillo recipe HERE. Painfully detailed step-by-step HERE.

Tapatío crema is just a mixture of crema agria (or sour cream), Tapatío to taste, a sprinkling of garlic powder or just a touch of fresh grated garlic, and lime juice to taste.

Best kitchen therapy ever. :)


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

We got jalapeños. :)

I let this volunteer get so tall before it started flowering that I was beginning to think it was defective, but it looks like we got jalapeños. :)))