Some of my favorite foods are from there. One of the best friends I’ve ever had is of similar origin. (Don’t ask him to speak Spanish though.) I love traveling there, I love the history, I love the language, I love George Lopez’s stand-up (the stand-up mind you, not that crappy Nickelodeon stuff)… I could go on.
I’ve mentioned Rick Bayless before (he’s one of my culinary heroes) and how my most excellent wife and I used to watch his PBS series on Saturday mornings. He’s the one that led me to start deconstructing all of those fantastic Mexican dishes that I love so much. That was about ten years ago, and this was one of the first things I did on my own to fight the evil forces pre-packaged mixes, sauces, and chips that plague our modern diet.
Anyway, I wouldn’t exactly call this authentic (Rick, forgive me for mentioning your name in the same post as this recipe), but it is tasty and quick and my kids even like it.
Ground Beef Tacos
In a heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until it shimmers. Add onion and sauté until the onions start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef and brown for 5 to 6 more minutes, then add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Drain excess fat from the skillet.
Return skillet to heat and add the water, tomato paste and spices. Mix until combined, then heat over medium-low for another few minutes.
If you’re using taco shells from a box (I’m not judging) then you can serve now, If you’re making some from corn tortillas, just heat about 1” of oil in another skillet until it’s hot and fold the tortilla like a taco shell. Using tongs to keep the shape, drop it into the oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes and then remove and drain on paper towels. Serve hot.
I’m no chili snob. I’ve never been to Santa Fe or really checked out any “authentic” chilis, but I know what I like and don’t like. I’ve been to enough pot luck type things (which is just a buffet that I won’t get a bill for…) that I have an idea of what OTHER people think chili is… We’ll just say that this one is nothing like those.
I got the base recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, who for some reason saw fit to call it White Chicken Chili, which is what I in turn called it whenever I served it. It is NOT white. It is a beautiful vibrant green, which takes a little explaining to less adventurous folks.
Believe me, this one is a keeper. You can make it spicy or not, you can make it thicker or thinner, and even the most hesitant are inevitably won over after trying it.
Green Chili with Chicken and White Beans (it doesn’t exactly flow off the tongue…)
Heat oil in large dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat. Sprinkle the chicken breasts liberally with salt, then put in oil skin side down. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, then flip and cook for 2 or 3 more. The chicken won’t be all the way cooked at this point, but remove the pieces with tongs and set aside.
While the chicken is cooking, remove the stem, seeds, and ribs from the jalapenos. If you like it spicier, you can leave the ribs. If you don’t like spicy, you can drop back to just one. I wouldn’t leave it out entirely, as it does bring flavor to the party, but it’s your dish. Mince the jalapenos very fine and set aside. Take the other chilis and onions and put them in the bowl of a food processor (you can do it in multiple batches if you need to). You don’t want to completely puree them, but you want them broken up. It should take 20 or 30 seconds, depending on your machine.
Once the chicken pieces are out of your pan, drain off all but a tablespoon or so of fat, then put the chili puree in the pan along with the garlic, cumin, coriander and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook them over medium heat until the vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes.
Take about a cup of the vegetable mixture, 1 cup of chicken stock, and about 2 cups of beans and put them all in the food processor. If you like it a little on the thicker side, use more beans. If you like it thinner, use less. Process all of that until smooth, then return it to the pot with your chicken pieces and any juices that have collected on the plate. Add the rest of the stock and then bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 20 to 30 minutes. (Basically we’re waiting for that chicken to finish cooking).
Take the chicken out an let cool on a plate. Add the remaining beans to the pot and cook until they are hot, 10 minutes or so. The chicken will be insanely hot when it comes out, in addition to being covered with an undetermined amount of jalapeno oils, so use caution. Pull the skin off and then shred the chicken into bite sized pieces. Add chicken to the pot, then lime juice and cilantro. Stir them together and serve with fresh tortilla chips, more limes (which can tone down the spice if needed, as well as adding a bright finish to the dish), etc. etc. Use your imagination. Go on, you don’t want me to think of everything for you, do you?
Everyone has days that they just don’t feel like investing a lot of time or effort into the after work meal. Either it was a long day and I was late getting home or you flat out don’t want to deal with it. BEWARE for these are the times that the forces of fast food and delivery pizza make their assault against your better sensibilities. RESIST I say, and do it with this super simple, but tasty dish. We almost always have the ingredients for this one on hand and it is very quick to put together. I can usually have this on the table in under 20 minutes.
Chicken and Corn Tacos
Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over the chicken breasts. I usually saute them over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, then let them cool. After they’re cool enough to handle, shred into bite size pieces. You could also boil the chicken, then shred which is healthier, but less tasty.
In a large skillet (the one you sauteed the chicken in if you went that route), put the oil in and heat until it shimmers. Add shredded chicken, corn and salsa. Mix until combined, then heat to a low boil. Once it’s heated through, serve on tortillas, taco shells or with chips. Cheese, tomatoes, olives all make great toppings for this.
If you’re not worried about fried (or in too much of a hurry) try this:
Take 8 corn tortillas and cut them into 8 wedges. Heat about 2 cups of vegetable oil to about 350 degrees. Add the tortilla pieces to the oil in batches of 8 or 10 and fry for about 3 minutes on both sides. They will turn a beautiful golden color (if they go to a dark brown, that’s too long). Take out of the oil, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. This will significantly extend your time investment for this meal, but they are FANTASTIC.
My kids are picky eaters. VERY picky. I won’t bore you with the details. Last night, however, we had a major breakthrough. My five year old son ate guacamole (which he calls whackamoley) VOLUNTARILY. I can’t account for it. It took me years to convince my wife to try the stuff. I was so proud of him…
Enough parental commentary, on to the good stuff!! My version of guacamole comes from Rick Bayless’ fantastic book Mexico One Plate At a Time. I used to watch his PBS series of the same name and believe me, this guy KNOWS Mexican cuisine, and this is one of his simplest recipes.
The fajitas don’t really come from any one source. They’re one of my wife’s favorite things and I have evolved and adapted this recipe over the last 10 years.
First, take a dry small skillet and heat it to about medium high, then put the whole jalapeno in it and let it sit on the heat for 2 or 3 minutes. The skin will turn black, which is what you want. Turn it over and repeat the process. Sometimes you have to use tongs and hold it in place, as it will want to roll around. Take the pepper out and let it cool.
Now, take the avocados one by one and slice them around the circumference with a sharp knife. Then twist the two halves in opposite directions and pull apart. Remove the pit with a spoon or knife and scoop out the inside into a medium bowl. Mash the avocado a little, just to break up the pieces. Don’t worry, if it doesn’t look like the right consistency yet, it will get there as we add the other ingredients.
Add the rinsed onion, tomatoes and cilantro. Cut the stem off of the top of the jalapeno and then cut it half long ways. If you like things hot, you can leave the seeds and ribs of the peppers in, but if you don’t like it as spicy, remove them and cut out the ribs. Very finely dice the pepper, then add it to the bowl.
Mix all of the ingredients together until combined. It should be more the consistency of a dip, now but still be quite chunky. Now comes the subjective part. Cut a lime in half and squeeze it into the mixture. Then add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and mix again. Then taste it and adjust if needed. I usually end up going with a bit more lime and sometimes a bit more salt.
Serve this with fresh tortilla chips – just cut up corn tortillas and fry them in some canola oil until they are a light golden color.
In a medium bowl, combine peppers, onions, half the garlic and about 1 teaspoon of salt, set aside. In another bowl, layer meat, garlic, sprinkle of salt, squeeze of lime, then toss. Allow both to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes or so.
Heat a grill or heavy skillet, lightly oiled. Once hot, add peppers and onions to skillet or grill pan. Once on the heat, do not move them until you start to see the edges of the peppers start to brown, around 4 minutes. Then toss once and allow to sit undisturbed for another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow grill or skillet to come back up to high temperature.
Put steak on to cook and allow to brown, then flip and brown on the other side. It should cook very quickly, so be careful not to burn it. Allow the meat to rest for 3 or 4 minutes, then slice into strips across the grain.
Serve with warm flour tortillas, cheese, tomatoes or whatever you like.