Mexico es bueno

It has been AGES since we’ve cooked a country. To be fair, we went to Hawaii and then moved, all in the space of a month. Culinary delights were a bit low on the priority list. But, now we are settled in, the kitchen is completely unpacked, and a new blender has been purchased. All this obviously means: time to cook Mexico!

Obviously, everyone loves Mexican food. Our favorite Mexican restaurant, Fogon, makes just about the best damn food you will every taste (and fairly authentic, I believe). However, it’s hard to know what is Mexican and what is “Mexican.” Even searching for recipes, I found a fair few that claimed to be Mexican and were just knock-offs involving beans and rice and tomatoes. Eventually, I settled on two, figuring that with the heaviness that Mexican food often brings, that would be plenty. Which it was, even though it was so delicious I wanted to grow another stomach.

On the menu tonight we had:

Mole Verde Zacatecano (Zacetecas-style Mole with Chicken)

Mexican Rice (this is actually a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, my most favorite cooking show. However, I found it on a website, so I’ve linked to there, since not all of the ATK recipes are available on their website. I HIGHLY recommend buying one or all of their cookbooks. Every single thing I’ve made has been delicious.)

Neither recipe required a special shopping trip. I suppose depending on where a person lives tomatillos may be hard to find, but in Seattle, they were at the local QFC.

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This meal was rather time consuming. I started cooking around 4:30 pm and we didn’t eat until 6:30. So keep that in mind – the rice on its own could be a weeknight side dish, but the chicken definitely requires more of a weekend time commitment. I guess unless you don’t have a job and employ a full time nanny and housekeeper and just have infinite time to cook. In which case, I hate you.

First, a word about the mole recipe. I had always thought that mole was a brown sauce, smoky, involving chocolate. Whereas, a green sauce made with tomatillos was salsa verde. A quick visit to Wikipedia informed me that outside of Mexico (aka, here) mole refers to mole poblano, which is the dark sauce made with chocolate. However, in Mexico, mole can refer to variety of sauces, including those of the green variety. Culinary fact of the day. You’re welcome.

The mole recipe required a whole chicken. I have never actually butchered a chicken before. This is kind of ridiculous, really, but generally I just buy the parts. Thankfully, my Betty Crocker cookbook had good instructions on how to break down a chicken. I wouldn’t have won any awards on Masterchef (I LOVE that show), but I got the chicken into 8 parts without too much struggle.

The chicken is poached for about 30 minutes, alongside onions, cilantro stems, garlic, and jalepenos. I definitely recommend using this time to prep the ingredients for the sauce.

A great benefit of this recipe was that it makes quite a lot of spicy stock. 4 cups are used in the mole sauce, but that left plenty both to use in the rice recipe and to freeze for the future.

The rice was pretty easy. I started frying the rice in the oil at the same time I started cooking the tomatillos and the jalepenos for the mole. After frying for about 8 minutes, it went into the oven with the wet ingredients, which freed my cooktop back up for the mole sauce. The rice took about 30 minutes total to cook. I used my Dutch oven, one of the greatest gifts my dad has ever given me.

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The sauce was easy to make. Most of the time went to reducing it, before adding the chicken and cooking it for 10 minutes more.

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Let me tell you – this was delicious. The chicken was tender and juicy, the sauce had just the right amount of kick, and the rice was heavenly. It tasted exactly like the Mexican rice you get in really good Mexican restaurants, but better (less greasy, for sure). I served it with warmed flour tortillas (I didn’t make these myself … but I can’t do everything) and Mike and I both gobbled up a few servings. Quinn seemed to like the rice, though it was hard to tell which she liked more: eating it or throwing it on the floor.

All in all, this meal took a fair amount of time, but was well worth it. I’d definitely recommend giving them both a whirl.

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