Tag Archives: Cotija cheese

Yucatecan classico: Cochinita pibil

cochinitapibil_COLLAGE_small

I’ve had a continual craving for pibil–the classic southern Mexican pork (cochinita) or chicken (pollo) dish of braised meat wrapped in banana leaf–ever since I was introduced to the chicken variety in a town outside of Chichen Itza, Yucatán, two Novembers ago.

There’s a satisfactory version on the menu at Taco Mesa, and Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly’s editor, says Conde Cakes in SanTana carries Yucatecan cuisine, but I’ve been cooking a variety of Mexican dishes at home lately and wanted to end the run on a high note. It’s a 27-hour wait from start to finish, and you’ll be left with orange, achiote-stained hands, but making the dish yourself leaves you with a happy belly and a true appreciation for this classic Mexican dish.

Read the full how to over at OC Weekly’s Stick a Fork In It blog.

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican Fiesta, Part 6—Oregano-lime shrimp salad with jicama and corn

mexican_shrimpsalad_1

If you’ve been following along with our improvised Mexican menu, you’ll be happy to know we’re coming to the end of our south-of-the-border marathon. I’m happy to say I used nearly every last component in my fridge until there was nothing left–therefore maximizing the dollars I spent to throw a small family party.

I had a bunch of iceberg lettuce and an ear of corn in the fridge, plus shrimp left in the freezer. With these ingredients I figured there was a salad to be made. The only thing I needed was jicama from the store and it was go time.

For the shrimp: I used 5 large shrimp per person. To season them, marinate the seafood in the juice of 1 lime, salt, 1 clove of garlic, minced, and 2 T of Mexican oregano. Sautee the shrimp in a pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, until they turn from translucent to white.

For the salad veggies: Shred the lettuce, cut the jicama into strips and cut the corn from the cob. You can eat the corn raw, or bring a pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat, and bring the corn to temperature in the pot–with the cover on–for about 5 minutes.

To finish: Toss the shrimp and veggies together with a dash of salt and a good squirt of lime juice. That’s your dressing. Plate each salad and garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of cotija cheese.

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican fiesta, Part 4—Chicken quesadilla with black beans and pickled red onion

mexican_quesadilla_1

If a quick meal is what you need, look no further than the versatile quesadilla. The quesadillas of my youth were nuked in the microwave and made with Mission flour rounds filled with a couple of Kraft singles. Not healthy and totally uninspired–a sad meal for my 10-year-old self.

My grown up tastes have led me to greener pastures, quesadilla-wise. I’ve found pure bliss in wonderfully-gooey Oaxaca cheese, salty cotija crumbles and the acerbic bite of pickled jalapenos.

To make the quesadilla at top, use 1 uncooked flour tortilla (about 140 calories; less fake/processed ingredients) and 1.5-2 oz. of Oaxaca (Mexican white) or cheddar cheese. The chicken from our chicken tostadas (recipe) makes a flavorful addition to the meal, and I always throw a handful of pickled jalapenos into the mix.

Click here to learn how our friend Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly cooks up a proper quesadilla.

I chose to add black beans (recipe) and pickled red onions (recipe) because extra ‘good stuff’ never hurt–especially the addition of the black beans, which really turn this snack into a fiber-filled meal. Finish with some chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of cotija and a spritz of lime juice to round out the flavors of the dish, if you happen to have those items on hand.

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican fiesta, Part 3—Poached shrimp and cotija-lime corn

mexican_shrimp_1

We wanted to add some variety to our list of Mexican leftover meals so I picked up a couple pounds of shrimp at the market to throw in the mix.

I knew I wanted to use the reserved braising liquid from when I made chicken tostadas to poach the shrimp in, and later reduce into a sauce to finish the dish. As always, devein your shrimp if they need it. Better yet, buy your shrimp from a place that will do it for you.

mexican_shrimp_3

I turned the braising liquid into a poaching liquid by straining it and adding the juice of 1/2 a lime, plus black pepper, garlic and bay leaf. To poach the shrimp in the liquid, bring it to a boil, reduce to medium and toss in the shrimp.

mexican_shrimp_4

Start the reduction by adding a cup of the braising liquid to another pan and cook over medium-high until nearly all of the liquid is gone and the reduction lightly coats the back of a spoon.

Time the reduction and the shrimp so they come to temperature about the same time.

When you plate the shrimp, arrange in a row and add just a drizzle of the reduction across the shrimp. You’ll need to add a spritz of lime to the mix to balance all the salt that was concentrated when you reduced the braising liquid.

For the corn: Use a pot with a lid that is large enough to hold the amount of corn you want to use. I used 1/2 ear per person. To cook the corn, bring enough water to cover the corn to a boil, then remove from the heat, add the corn to the pot and cover for at least 5 minutes. That’s it. Add a light coating of butter or sour cream, cotija cheese and cilantro.

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican fiesta, Part 2—Rice bowl with braised chicken and pickled red onion

mexican_ricebowl

My main problem with restaurant rice bowls is the amount of rice they use. I’ve flipped out a rice bowl from Flame Broiler before and counted full 2 cups of rice. That’s 400 calories of non-nutritious filler before you even get to the stuff on top.

A better serving of rice is 1/2 cup, which will leave you with enough grains to feel substantial without drowning the dish in carbs. With less rice in the mix, you can fill up the bowl with better ingredients including lean meats and veggies. Brown rice would be best, but I’m still working on giving up white rice and pasta, which is hard for me anyway, because I don’t eat much of either so I think

Here’s a recipe that will leave you with four rice bowls:

Make the rice, Chef Brian’s version: Saute 1/2 onion, small diced, adding 1/2 t ground cumin and 1/2 t ground coriander. Add 1 cup of rice and mix well. Use a ratio of just under 2 cups of liquid (chicken stock or water), subbing in 2/3 cup of the amount of water with tomato sauce–preferably El Pato brand, which has some good spice to it. Throw some frozen peas and carrots in too if you’d like.

Bring the contents to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, pickle the onion: Slice 1/2 red onion into thin slices and coat with a healthy pinch of salt and the juice of 3/4 of a lime. Give it a few stirs within the 20 minutes the rice cooks and by the time that’s ready, so will the onions.

Prepare the chicken (recipe here): Instead of shredding the chicken as we did for tostadas, cut the meat into larger chunks. Use 1/2 chicken breast for every serving–2 breasts total. Warm the chicken in a pan with a little cooking spray, 1 can of black beans, drained, and 1/2 cup of frozen corn kernels.

Assemble the bowl: When the mix is warm, add it to the rice and scoop into bowls for serving. Garnish with the pickled onion, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, cilantro and a squirt of lime from the remaining 1/4 you saved.

Up next: Poached shrimp with cotija-lime corn!

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican fiesta, Part 1—Shredded chicken tostadas

tostada_1

We had Nadia’s cousins and brother over for football this weekend. We’re all big, hungry dudes, so you know I had to whip up something tasty.

I bought a lot of chicken–too much chicken for the tostadas I planned to make–so I’ve been tinkering with new ways to use the leftover ingredients since Sunday. But before we get into reincarnating the leftovers, it’s best to show you the recipe that left me with a Mexican bounty.

If you are looking for a healthy, frugal meal that will carry you through, look no further than the humble tostada: Corn tortilla, beans, meat, veggies, salsa, cheese and condiments.

For the recipe I made, the ingredients were: Pinto beans, chorizo, shredded chicken breast, shredded iceberg lettuce, pickled jalapeno, Oaxaca cheese, cotija cheese, Mexican crema, salsa verde, cilantro and lime.

A healthier me would have omitted the chorizo and the crema, but it was game day and I splurged. But, a little bit of either—about two tablespoons of chorizo and a two teaspoons of sour cream or light sour cream—ain’t gonna hurt none. (Read more: 8 Fatty Foods with Health Benefits—Sour Cream.)

tostada_2

You will get 8 to 10 tostadas from two chicken breasts, depending on how large they are. Forget the quantity I use in the pictures, as I said, I cooked for an army and still have leftovers. Anyways, let’s cook!

Make the dry rub: It made enough for 10 large chicken breasts: 2 T kosher salt, 2 T garlic powder, 2 T onion powder, 1 T Cambodian Kampot peppercorns from Pepper Project (any black peppercorns will do though), 1 T of paprika, 2 t Mexican oregano, 2 t cumin, 2 t chili powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper and 2 bay leaves.

Run the mix through a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and that’s it.

For an alternative dry rub made with chipotle chili powder, use Chef Brian’s Chicken Taco Spice.

tostada_3

Your best bet to get the chicken tender enough to shred easily with a fork is to braise the meat. To get the chicken ready for braising, give it a good massage with the spice mix and let it sit out and temper for about an hour.

The braise: Heat an appropriate amount of oil in the pan for the number of chicken breasts you are using and sear all of the meat, browning both sides for 2-3 minutes per side. In my version, I first cooked the chorizo in the pan and then removed the meat, leaving behind the chorizo fat to cook the chicken in (with the addition of some canola oil). Once all the chicken is done, add a chopped onion and 3 cloves of chopped garlic to the pan, scraping the bottom free of whatever’s stuck to it.

Add a little tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock (Video: How to deglaze a pan). Add the chicken back to the pan, and fill it about halfway up the height of the chicken with more stock. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

tostada_4

When the chicken is done baking, it will be in a pool of braising liquid. Gently remove the chicken (it’s tender now, so it might fall apart) and leave the braising liquid to cool. When it has cooled, reserve it in a plastic container and put it in the fridge for later use (which we’ll get to on the blog soon).

Make the beans while the chicken bakes: Pinto beans or black beans, either one works here. Black beans are better nutritionally, so that’s a plus, but sometimes I like the lighter flavor of pinto beans better.

Heat 2 t of oil in a small pot and sautee 1/2 white onion and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. You can add spices at this point, including cumin and corriander, if you wish. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and 1 can of drained black beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Break up the beans while they cook. The liquid will boil out and the beans will thicken into a paste. Salt to taste.

Bake the tortillas: Crank the oven up to 400 degrees once you’ve pulled the chicken out. Hit as many corn tortillas as you’ll need with a spritz of cooking spray and a dash of salt (a solid serving is two per person; a lighter eater might want one and a side salad) and bake directly on a sheet pan for about 10 minutes. I start checking mine at 8 minutes, and keep checking them until they’re done around the 10-12 minute mark.

You want to leave them space on the pan and have the patience to cook them until they’re done right, or else they will be chewy and gross instead of crisp and awesome.

Knock out everything else while the tostadas bake: Shred the chicken with the backs of two forks. Slice the lettuce super thin with a sharp knife. Get spoons in the sour cream and the salsa. Whatever you gotta do to make it Tostada O’Clock.

Layer properly: Beans. Then meat. Then veggies. Then cheese. Salsas. Crema. Herbs. Lime.

Bonus! Breakfast tostadas!

mexican_breakfasttostada

Tomorrow: Mexican rice bowls with braised chicken and pickled red onion.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...