Friday, November 04, 2005
Pollo con Salsa Verde
Ramadan ended Wednesday night, so to celebrate I prepared a somewhat unorthodox Mexican dinner of Pollo con Salsa Verde (Chicken in Green Sauce), Mexican rice, and refried beans, all of it from scratch. I was most excited to prepare this because it involved using my new cookbook, Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World, which I'd been eagerly awaiting from Amazon. I am a huge fan of Bittman's Minimalist column in the NY Times, which I've read religiously for years, and his How to Cook Everything, which is an extremely useful cookbook. But this new cookbook promised to be even more thrilling, especially since it has lots of Moroccan recipes and recipes from many of my favorite ethnic cuisines-- Indian, Thai, Japanese, and even old standbys like French and Italian. I trust Bittman implicitly-- I've probably made several hundred of his recipes, 90% of which have turned out to be dishes I'll make again.
So the aforementioned Mexican dinner came entirely from the new cookbook. It involved making refried beans from scratch, doing a quick soak of small red beans and then preparing them with epazote, a Mexican spice that thankfully is sold at a local vegetable stand about a half a mile from my house. Also sold at the local vegetable stand are hulled pumpkin seeds and tomatillos, two essential ingredients in the Mexican chicken dish. The rice involved frying dry rice in oil and then cooking it with broth and a mixture of pureed tomatoes, onions, and garlic. It was pretty delicious too-- had a texture I wasn't used to with rice, but I liked it fine. And the Chicken in Green Sauce was terrific.
I will never forget the first time I had green enchiladas-- in a Mexican restaurant in Madrid called El Cuchi, back in 1995. (The restaurant was very theatrical-- waitresses served tequila shots accompanied by a hard hat to be placed on the customer's head and rapped on after the customer kicked back a shot while the waitress also rang a hand-held siren.) But I loved the enchiladas. The tomatillo-cilantro flavor was so unlike anything I'd ever had before, and it's one of my favorite things to order at Mexican restaurants. Mark Bittman's recipe is more complex and nuanced than any green chicken I've made before, partially because of the addition of pumpkin seeds and scallion. I would definitely make this again, and I plan to continue making and reporting on lots of new recipes from this cookbook.
Pollo con Salsa Verde
1/3 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped scallion
1 cup husked, cored, and sliced tomatillos
1 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
3 Tblsp. lard or neutral oil (I used canola)
2.5-3 lbs. chicken parts, trimmed of fat (I used legs)
salt & pepper
Toast pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown and pop (less than 5 minutes). In a blender, puree them with cilantro, scallion, tomatillos, and enough stock to make a thin paste.
In a skillet or casserole, brown the chicken in oil on all sides, turning occasionally, about 10-15 minutes.
Add salsa verde to the pan with another 1/2 cup of stock, the pieces may not be quite covered and the mixture will be soupy. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes, turning pieces occasionally, making sure sauce reduces and thickens somewhat. Serve with rice and beans.