Category Archives: truly mexcellent!

Arroz con Pollo

Since being on holiday, I’ve done a bit of meal planning and prep work for upcoming meals for the week, some of which are more elaborate than the usual weeknight fare we have here. Last night, I decided we’d have something that was relatively fast and easy to fix since I’d been busy all day and SB was tired from the long day at school (they were in session until today!). Enter arroz con pollo:

Simple. Tasty. Comfort food.

It’s a variation of the usual chicken and rice dinner that I used to cook quite a lot as a kid, when both my repetoire and palate were much more limited than they are now.

I’ll start off by saying that this recipe really does need onions to add depth of flavor, but due to food allergy issues in our house, they have been omitted. If you do make this yourself, add half a small onion that has been finely diced to the rice when you brown it.

Here’s how I made the dish. You will need:

  • 4 chicken leg quarters, excess fat removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, raw
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • OPTIONAL: half a small onion, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the leg quarters by removing any excess fat and skin, or your finished dish will be extremely greasy. Sprinkle the leg quarters liberally with salt and pepper. On either a broiling pan or a rack set in a jelly roll pan, roast the leg quarters for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the leg is pierced with a fork. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

During the last 15 minutes of the chicken cooking time, in a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat so that you can brown the rice. You will know that the oil is hot enough when you put a couple of rice grains in it and they dance a bit in the pan. When the oil is hot, add the rice and stir it around as it browns slightly. If you decide to use onion, this is where you want to add it in. Once the rice is lightly browned, add in your tomato sauce and stir. Add in the water and spices, and stir thoroughly to mix. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes until it begins to bubble. Once the rice begins to bubble, add in the chicken and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to simmer, and allow the rice to cook, stirring only a couple of times as you don’t want your rice to be mushy. Allow the rice to cook for about 30 minutes, and tilt the lid slightly to allow steam to escape during the last 8-10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat, close the lid and let the dish finish steam cooking for about 10 minutes. Serve while hot.

We ate ours with mashed pinto beans and cheese. This would also be good with a green salad and tortillas. This recipe made 4 servings: 1 leg quarter plus about a cup of rice each, so for us, we got two really yummy meals out of this recipe.


Baked Chiles Rellenos with Turkey-Bean Stuffing

Alas, it is nearly the end of August, and that means two things:  it is hotter than hell, and Hatch chiles are in season.

For the uninitiated, Hatch peppers are probably, bar none, the best green chiles one can ever hope to consume.  Grown in Hatch, New Mexico, like champagne and bourbon, they can only be called those things if they hail from the specific geographic regions they originate from.

Hatch peppers are a foodie’s fondest dream, especially if that foodie has a love of all things capsaicin (the compound responsible for the heat in chile peppers of any sort).  The peppers can be mild, and impart only a hint of heat to the dish which they are added to, or they can be hotter than hot and leave a lingering burn that burns oh so good.

A few weeks ago, I’d made a mango salsa that had a poblano pepper in it.  Typically, poblanos are pretty mild when it comes to heat, measured in Scoville units.  Hatch peppers are pretty close on the Scoville scale when compared to poblanos, but can still pack quite a punch.

After seeing how gorgeous the poblanos at Central Market were last week, I decided we’d have chiles rellenos for dinner one night.  I’d gotten a recipe for some sort of turkey taco bean dip via email from Hungry Girl and wanted to try it, but needed to modify it since it had onions in it (one of SB’s allergens).  I also didn’t want to eat it as a dip, since I’d eat more chips than dip (my damn Kryptonite, tortilla chips are).  I also had a can of Hatch green chile enchilada sauce in my larder that needed to be used and that could be subbed into the Hungry Girl recipe.  So I figured I’d stuff some peppers with the filling and top them with a bit of cheese.  Here is the result:

A twist on the traditional chile relleno, this recipe does not roast the chiles first, nor does it dredge then fry them. Packed full of fiber, this is an easy, healthy dinner that can be put together in a short amount of time.

They were super easy to make, and full of heat from the Hatch chile sauce that was a part of the stuffing.  Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 pound 93/7 ground turkey
  • 1 can Hatch green chile enchilada sauce (I used mild; you can ramp up the heat if you like)*
  • 1 can fat-free refried beans
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste

*In lieu of Hatch green chile sauce, just plain ol’ green chile enchilada sauce (like Old El Paso or others) can be used.  The flavor won’t be the same, though.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey and drain the excess fat.  To the turkey, add the can of green chile enchilada sauce, cumin and garlic powder.  Allow these to cook together for about 10 minutes so that the meat takes on the flavor of the chile sauce.  After that, add the can of refried beans, stir to combine and let this mixture heat until it bubbles slightly.

While the meat and bean mixture is cooking, slit the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds without removing the stems.  You can remove the stems if you like, but I left mine on for presentation purposes.  I recommend using gloves to seed the peppers, as the capsaicin will get onto your skin and subsequently anything you touch.  Let’s put it this way, I now know what it must be like to be pepper sprayed. 🙂

Once your peppers are slit open and seeded, check your meat/bean mixture.  If it is a little bubbly, stir in 3/4 cup of the Monterrey Jack cheese and allow it to melt into the mixture.  Once the cheese has melted, lay the peppers in a 13 x 9 glass baking dish, and fill each pepper with the meat/bean mixture.  The amount will vary and will be determined by the size of your peppers.  You may have leftover filling–save it for a burrito!  Divide the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese among the tops of the 4 peppers, and bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes until the peppers blister slightly and your cheese is nice and brown.

This recipe made 4 servings and was served over brown rice.  With the amount of filling that I ended up with, I could have stuffed another pepper if I’d had one.  Additionally, this recipe could easily be converted to a vegetarian one with the omission of the turkey meat.  It could also be made vegan if a cheese substitute were used.  Give it a try!

Brisket Tacos and Borracho Beans

I hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July.  Ours was really low-key:  we got up super early, went for a walk at a local park, came home and were like slugs all day.  I napped, but before I napped, I put a brisket in the oven for us to have for dinner last night.  After all, it was the 4th of July, and well, brisket is holiday food.  At least it is to me.

Anyway…we had a substantial bit of brisket left over, because well, you can’t buy a brisket for 2.  You can get pretty close, but it’s tough.  Thankfully, the butcher I shop at had smaller cuts of brisket and I was able to get a brisket that was a bit under 6 pounds.  I didn’t really do anything special to it:  just poured a couple of Mexican Cokes (no corn syrup) into a 9-quart Dutch oven, rubbed the brisket down with some rub I have, and placed the meat in, fat side up.  I put the lid on it, put it into a 250F oven and let it cook from 9 until 5 that evening.

The result was a super moist, fork-tender brisket.  In lieu of a smoker, this is how I’m going to cook brisket from now on.

Anyway…since we had so much leftover brisket, I decided that we’d have brisket tacos for dinner tonight, which turned out to be a brilliant idea:

Got leftover 4th of July brisket? We did. Here's what we did with it...mmm, brisket tacos! Almost like barbacoa, but a bit less fatty and just as tasty!

I served them on whole wheat tortillas, along with a bit of shredded Chihuahua cheese and lime wedges.  The avocados we had were not quite ripe enough, or I’d have sliced them up and stuffed the tacos with them.

But man cannot live by tacos alone (or can he?  That’s debatable).  To round out our dinner, I fixed a pot of borracho beans, in the style of a local joint we frequent whose beans are off the chain.  Borracho is the Spanish word for “drunk,” and these beans are so named because you add a bottle of beer to them as they cook.  Of course the alcohol cooks out during the cooking process, so no drunkenness ensues.  Be sure you choose a good quality beer for this, as you really don’t want skunky beer flavoring your pot of beans!

Borracho beans: easy to make, filling to eat, full of veggies and...bacon. Which you can leave out if you like, but which does add flavor.

So I’ll cut to the chase and tell you how I made this evening’s dinner.  You will need:

For the tacos:

  • about 1 1/2 cups chopped brisket
  • 4 tortillas
  • Garnishes:  lime wedges, shredded cheese of your choice, salsa, avocado slices, cilantro, chopped onion…you get the idea

Warm the brisket in the microwave.  While the brisket is warming, heat your tortillas either in a skillet on the stove, or you can go all Mexicano and do it on the stove eye, like I do.  Just don’t burn yourself.  Once your tortillas are warm, stuff each taco with about a half cup or so of brisket and garnish as desired.

For the beans:

  • 1 pound dry pinto beans, rinsed and sorted (basically, make sure there are no rocks)
  • 3 tablespoons ham base*
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cans diced stewed tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, sliced (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 12-ounce bottle lager style Mexican beer, like Corona
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano (it has a more intense flavor than Mediterranean oregano, found in Greek cuisine)
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • hot water

*If you do not have ham base available to you or cannot consume pork products, you may substitute chicken stock and leave out the bacon.  To make this completely vegetarian, use vegetable stock.

Once you have rinsed and sorted your beans, place them into a large pot (like a 5 or 6 quart Dutch oven) and cover them with hot water so that the water is 2″ above the beans.  Cover the beans and put them on a stove set to medium-high heat.  Bring the beans to a boil, and then add the ham base.  Stir thoroughly so that the ham base dissolves in the liquid, then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the beans to cook for 90 minutes, stirring periodically so that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.  Once the 90 minutes has passed, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Allow the soup to cook for an additional 60-90 minutes.  At the end of the cooking time, use a potato masher to mash the beans up slightly so that your soup is thickened a bit.  Serve while piping hot.

To reduce the heat, you may omit the jalapeno.  Our beans turned out to be quite spicy, but really good!  The pot makes about 10 1 1/2 cup servings.

Chile Verde

A couple of weeks ago, I made chile colorado, which was quickly gobbled up by SB and me.  I’d been wanting to replicate the green chile stew I periodically ask my mom to make, and when I asked her how to make the chile colorado, I was sure to ask her how to make the chile verde as well.

It turns out that it’s just as easy to fix as chile colorado.  First, you need some green chile:

When you can't get Hatch chiles, this is a good substitute.

Since I didn’t have any Hatch on hand, as my mom always does (she buys 50+ pounds when they are in season and freezes it to use all year long), I had to settle for a tub of Bueno, which I found in the frozen vegetable section at Central Market.  It had a little bit of a bite, but not as much as I like my green chile to have.

Green chile puree adds heat to this simple beef stew.

This stew is rather easy to fix and requires little attention while cooking.  It does take quite a bit of time to cook, though, so be sure you either start it early on in the evening if you plan to have dinner on the table by 6, or make it on the weekend and reheat.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 13 ounce tub frozen green chiles, pureed (canned green chiles would work here as well), about 2 cups
  • 2 pounds stew beef or chuck roast, cubed into bite-size pieces
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 onion, diced (NOTE:  I did not add onion to my version, but this dish really needs onion to add more complexity to the flavor)

In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 teaspoons of canola oil.  Add the beef and stir, being sure to brown all sides of the meat.  Cover and cook the beef until most of the liquid has cooked off.  If you are using onions, add them here.  Next, add in the garlic cloves and powder, chile puree, black pepper and salt with enough water to cover the meat by about an inch and allow this to simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring periodically.  You want the meat to be fork tender at this point.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking time, add the potatoes with a bit more water.  Allow the potatoes to cook until they are easily pierced with a fork.

Serve with warm tortillas and cheese.  I served a pot of spicy pinto beans alongside ours.  This makes an outstanding burrito filling, and is how I usually eat it when I have it at my mom’s.

This recipe makes about 10 1 1/2 cup servings, or thereabouts.  We have dinner for tomorrow night, with scant leftovers for a third night’s dinner.

Chile Colorado (Red Chile Stew)

Let me begin this post by saying that my mom and dad are both outstanding cooks.  Had it not been for watching them in the kitchen as a kid, I am pretty sure I would not be half the cook I am now.  I grew up on a lot of Mexican food, and by this I mean actual Mexican food–not Tex-Mex, but Mex-Mex.  The stuff you get from places like Taco Bueno or Taco Bell sure as hell aren’t Mexican (but sadly in some parts of the country, it’s what passes for Mexican food).  Real Mexican food is simple, wholesome and relatively healthy.  The stuff many restaurants pass off as Mexican food is as much a bastardization of the cuisine as the Chinese food that is found in many Chinese takeout joints.

But I digress…

You know those things your parents fix that only they really know how to fix right, that only taste good when they make them?  For me, those dishes would be my mom’s chile verde and my dad’s chile colorado.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking with my mom about red chile, and how I’d wanted to learn to make it, and she said, “It’s really easy.  You just have to buy the puree at the store.  Central Market has it in the freezer section.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather when she said this.  As a child, I remember my parents bringing back 50 pound sacks of dried New Mexico red chiles and 50 pounds’ worth of roasted Hatch green chiles from New Mexico whenever we’d go visit my grandparents in the summertime.  I also remembered that whenever mom and dad would make enchiladas, they had to rehydrate the red chiles in boiling water, puree them in the blender, strain it to remove the pulp and seeds and THEN they could make the chile sauce.  Really, the whole process is a pain in the ass, but the result is quite tasty.

The fact that you can get this:

already pureed is truly AMAZING, and a real time saver, because it saves you about an hour and a half of work!

So once my mom told me of the wonders of Bueno chile, I decided I needed to make chile colorado.  My mom makes it with oregano, which you can certainly do, as Mexican oregano complements the flavor of the chile nicely.  My dad’s version doesn’t use oregano and is equally as good, so it’s the version I went with.

No Tex-Mex here, this is Mex-Mex!

This was outstanding, and will be dinner for us for the next few days.  It’s got a bite to it, but it is really good and super easy.  Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 2-3 pounds pork chops, trimmed and cubed, bones reserved with a bit of their attached meat for flavor
  • canola oil
  • 2 large Russet potatoes, skinned and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 14 ounces red chile puree, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat about a teaspoon of canola oil and cook the pork (and bones) over medium heat until it is cooked through and no more of the cooking liquid remains.  Once the meat has cooked through, salt and pepper the meat to season it.  Add the red chile puree and garlic powder and enough water to cover the meat.  Let this come to a boil, and then simmer for an hour.  After about an hour, add in the potatoes and about 2 more cups of water and stir to evenly distribute the vegetables throughout the stew.  Allow this to continue cooking at a low simmer, about 30 more minutes.

Serve hot, with beans as shown.  Rice is also a good accompaniment, as are tortillas.  I ate mine with corn tortillas, and it was awesome.

This recipe makes about 14 1-cup servings.