Chicken Chili Verde, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Lard

11 06 2008

We are getting pretty good at making Mexican food with French ingredients, if I do say so myself.  Having recently come into a glut of cheap chicken leg quarters, Nick decided to try his hand at some chicken chili verde.  Yet another braise.  It’s amazing how many different cuisines use this technique – but then who doesn’t love something you can put on the stove and forget about for a couple of hours?

Mise en place for chili verde
Nick found some gorgeous green chilis at the market, and chopped them up along with some onion and garlic.  After the chicken had been browned, into the Dutch oven they went.

You can almost SEE how good this smells!

You should know the drill by now.  Liquid, skinned chicken, simmer, yada yada.  What Nick did that was special, was that once the chicken was good and tender, he shredded it off the bones, returned it to the pot, and continued to cook it until the pot was almost dry.  This really concentrates the flavors and gives the meat a texture that is absolutely out of this world.  Unctuous, even.  Here it is about halfway done:

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Is there anything better than carnitas?

9 04 2008

How about fresh, handmade tortillas to put it (them?) on, and from-scratch refried beans?

Finding pinto beans in Paris is not easy, but some Asian markets have them, and sometimes you can get them at the supermarket for more money.  As such, I had part of a bag of dried pintos in the kitchen when Nick came home with a kilo and a half of pork which he intended to turn into carnitas.  Unfortunately, I had too many other things to do that day to make beans, but there were a lot of leftover little meats.  So last night (well, yesterday morning) I decided to cook up some refried beans to accompany the rest of the carnitas.  I started soaking them in the morning, and noticed how cool they look before they have been cooked and smashed.

Pinto beans, before

Here they have alrerady been soaking for a short spell, and are already beginning to wrinkle and expand.  But look how pretty they are!

Anyway, you can’t have carnitas without tortillas, and the Old El Paso ones they sell here just aren’t cutting it.  (The masa quest has, to date, been fruitless, but I’m not giving up – we saw a Peruvian store the other night and I plan on returning to check out what they have to offer.)  Flour tortillas, however, are easy to make, as demonstrated by Robert Rodriguez, and vastly superior to store-bought, especially in France.  So I made some dough using vague metric approximations of U.S. measurments, and it actually worked!

Pre-Tortillas

Here are the dough balls, resting while I get hungrier and hungrier.  Lazy bums.  No, you have to let them rest or they’ll never roll out into nice thin circles, like this:

Nearly Tortilla

Then all you have to do is cook them in a lightly oiled pan (nonstick will make your life easier), and you end up with beautiful, soft, warm, fresh tortillas!

Flour Tortilla

Meanwhile, I had been simmering the beans (after soaking them for 8 or 9 hours) with onion, garlic, cumin, scotch bonnet pepper, bay leaf, cilantro, cinnamon, and salt.  When the beans were tender and the liquid was getting reduced, I picked out the pepper, bay leaf, and any large pieces of onion.  Then I mashed them with a potato masher and added a little more salt, cumin, and black pepper.  While not exactly “refried,” it’s close enough for me.

Pinto beans, after

I served them alongside the tortillas, garnished thusly:

Carnitas taco

with Nick’s carnitas and homemade salsa, crème fraîche (who needs sour cream?), and avocado.  Avocados are so cheap here – 5 for 2 euro is pretty standard – I can’t get over it.  We eat them often.

Now we have a bunch of leftover refried beans.  What cool about that is you put them in a bowl, top them with cheese, crème fraîche, sliced avocado, chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro, and you got yourself a stew!  I mean seven-layer dip.  Yeah.








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