We’re still busy trying to get settled in at my parents’ house. There’s a lot of work to be done in the kitchen and pantry, mostly in terms of weeding out expired products and stocking up on things that I consider essentials, so I haven’t tried anything fancy yet—just a few easy recipes. We’ve also gotten outside to start planting in my dad’s vegetable garden.

The weather on Saturday was unbelievably gorgeous, 80 degrees and sunny, so we got some seeds starts going for tomatoes, peppers and the like, and filled up one of the raised beds with early spring vegetables: lettuce and spinach, spring onions, peas and chickpeas, as well as some beets and carrots. There is lots more space to be used after the danger of frost has passed, and we contacted the local community garden at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church about renting a plot there too.

Nolan loved the beautiful weather: we went to the playground twice on Saturday, and he ran around in the backyard in his bare feet, playing with garden stakes and sitting in the swinging chair. Good thing we soaked up all that sunshine, because the very next day saw a 40-degree drop in temperature and an inch of snow! Nothing like spring in Colorado…

Fortunately, this meal works just fine no matter what the temperature, especially when your dad is always clamoring for more Mexican food. We roasted a chicken, slathered up with chipotle-herb butter, and served it with the traditional fixings of rice, beans, and homemade tortillas. I made a light gravy from the drippings to drizzle on top, and Dad was in seventh heaven.

The next night, with snow swirling outside the windows, we made a pot of tortilla soup with the leftovers. The recipe, which I use regularly, can be found here; my only adjustments this time were using yogurt instead of sour cream, plus cutting up the tortilla strips with kitchen scissors and frying them in grapeseed oil, at least the ones that Nolan didn’t steal off the counter to snack on.

Chipotle Roasted Chicken

1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 T chopped fresh cilantro leaves plus 3 fresh sprigs (always optional)
1 T chopped fresh oregano leaves plus 3 fresh sprigs
1 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves plus 3 fresh sprigs
4 tsp minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed in resealable plastic bag with mallet
1 large roasting chicken, rinsed, patted dry; neck, heart, and gizzard reserved
2 large onions, each cut into 8 wedges through root end, leaving root ends intact
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 C (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1/4 C dry white wine

Using fork, mix butter, all chopped herbs, chipotle chiles, and crushed coriander in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be done a day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using. (I used mostly just adobo sauce because I was worried about the heat of the chiles.)

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Place chicken, breast side up, in large roasting pan; pat the chicken as dry as possible and place reserved neck, heart, and gizzard alongside. Starting at neck end of chicken, slide fingers under skin to loosen, being careful to avoid tearing. Spread all but 1 tablespoon seasoned butter over breast meat and thigh meat under skin. Rub any butter remaining on fingers over outside of chicken. Sprinkle main cavity of chicken with salt and pepper; place all herb sprigs in cavity. Tie legs together loosely.

Place onion wedges in large bowl. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon seasoned butter in small saucepan over low heat; pour over onion wedges and toss to coat. Arrange onions around chicken. Sprinkle onions and chicken with salt and pepper.

Roast chicken and onions 30 minutes. Scatter garlic cloves around chicken; add 1/4 cup broth to roasting pan. Continue to roast chicken until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 170°F, basting occasionally with pan juices and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed to maintain juices in roasting pan, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Remove roasting pan from oven. Tilt chicken, draining juices from cavity into pan. Transfer chicken, onions, and garlic to platter. Tent with foil to keep warm. Add 1/4 cup broth and wine to pan. Place over 2 burners and bring juices to boil, scraping up browned bits. Strain juices into bowl. Discard fat from top of juices, or if desired, mix a little of the fat with equal parts flour to form a beurre manie, and whisk a spoonful or so of this back into the simmering juices for body.

Cut meat from chicken and serve, making tacos with warm tortillas, chicken, onions, garlic, and avocado if desired. Drizzle with pan juices and serve with Mexican rice and a pot of beans (we used Rio Zapes cooked with onion and oregano).

Source: Slightly adapted from Epicurious.

Arroz a la Mexicana

1 1/2 C long grain white or brown rice
1/3 C vegetable oil (we used grapeseed)
8 oz tomatoes, roughly chopped (canned works as well as fresh)
1/4 of a small onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
About 3 1/2 C well-salted chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
2-4 T peas (optional)
1 whole sprig fresh parsley (optional)
Salt to taste

For this quantity, you will need a heavy-bottomed pan about 4″ deep and 9″ across.

Pour enough hot water over the rice to cover generously, and let it stand for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well in cold water, then shake the strainer and leave to drain for several minutes.

Heat the oil. Give the rice a final shake and stir it into the oil until the grains are well covered (stand back when you dump it in, just in case of spattering), then fry until just turning color, stirring and turning the rice over to cook evenly and prevent sticking. This process will take about 10 minutes, and should be done over high heat or the rice will end up mushy. Tip the pan to one side and drain off any excess oil, or drain the rice through a strainer.

Blend the tomatoes, onion, and garlic until smooth—you will end up with about a cup. Add this puree to the fried rice, still over high heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan until the mixture is just dried out. Add the broth, carrots, peas and parsley, plus salt as necessary, then stir well; do not stir again after this point. Cook over medium heat, covered, until the liquid has been absorbed and small air holes appear in the top of the rice. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cover the pan with a piece of terry cloth; fit the lid snugly on top of this so that no steam will escape, and set aside in a warm place for about 20 more minutes. The rice will finish cooking in its own steam and the grains will expand. Before serving, fluff the rice with a fork.

Source: The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, by Diana Kennedy (pp. 160-161).

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