Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Like Cinco de Mayo was going to pass and you weren't going to have a post from the only Mexican on here!

You have to start by understanding that Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Mexican Independence in the sense that we know it. It's not like the fourth of July with fireworks and nationwide patriotism. It is mostly celebrated in the state of Puebla in eastern/central Mexico, and represents the victory of the Mexican army over the French in 1862 in the battle of Puebla. More than anything it was the last time a foreign army attempted to invade the country. Otherwise, it's just an American holiday between Easter and Memorial Day where you drink Corona with lime wedges at La Vallarta or whatever other Mexican restaurant is out there that has Speedy #5 with beans on the menu. In fairness, anything that increases the awareness of Mexicans is fine with me, as if you needed that (just take a look around!). So, pour some tequila or some Bohemia (my favorite Mexican beer, no lime required) and check it out.

Pollo con crema a la Francesa con salsa habanero a la Mexicana

If you're going to eat Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo, I think it's appropriate to eat something that has Poblano peppers. Poblanos are originally be from the Mexican state of Puebla, so there you go. They're the ones that look like flat, dark bell peppers at your local supermarket a.k.a. "grid." How better to cook them then charred on the grill, peeled, and cut into strips (rajas) and served with a creamy sauce.

Pollo con crema (for you, Amber Perry) I have had mostly in this country but is a dish eaten in Mexico, not only with chicken, but also with fish.

4 chicken thighs seasoned with salt, pepper, or your favorite grill rub
Bechamel (hence the Francesa), Mexican crema, or heavy whipping cream about 2-3 cups
Two poblano peppers, blackened, peeled, cut into strips or rajas
1/3 of an onion
2 cloves of garlic

The other purpose of the post is to illustrate the versatility of one of the mother sauces, Bechamel. It's not particularly Mexican to use butter for something, but there's no reason you can't do it.

3 tbsp AP flour
2 tbsp of butter in pieces
2 cups of boiling milk with 1/4 tbsp of salt (medium pinch) (Bechamel) or stock (Veloute', can use any white stock, preferably fish)

Melt the butter over lower heat, and add the flour whisking as you go until you have a nice blond roux. Hmm, this looks familiar all of a sudden, and it should, as this can also be the basis of Gumbo and other Creole/Cajun delicacies. Cook this a couple of minutes, whisking the keep it smooth. Timing is key here, and ideally you may want to prepare this as your meat is resting.

This sauce can be augemented, ideally with some acid like lemon or lime juice and it adds a nice kick to it. Remember that the ratio here is 1 part flour: 1 part fat (either butter or oil). Add hot liquid to create a nice thick sauce consistency. From this, you augment the base sauce, in our case with onions, garlic, lime juice, and roasted Poblano peppers.

Back to the rest of the show. Grill the chickens, indirect heat until well cooked through, pull them off to rest.

In the meantime, sautee your onions and garlic. Add the cream sauce, rajas, and a little water, stir to get your emulsion going, then add the chicken and keep it warm until serving.

If you add your jus from the chicken, and let it sit a little while, the flavors will really come together.

For the salsa, it's just like a previous post, but now that tomatoes are slowly reappearing at the market, just to recap:

3 medium whole tomatoes diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 habanero, seeded and chopped
2 fresh garlic cloves
1/3 of an onion diced
Juice from 1 lime
salt to taste
small handful of cilantro, minced

Add all but the cilantro to the blender, pulse to combine. The fresh tomatoes will give it a little froth. Add the cilantro after you pull it out of the blender or food processor. This salsa isn't going to win any beauty contests, but when you taste you'll be glad you subbed the fresh tomato for the canned. Finally remember that anything "a la Mexicana" is going to have onion, tomato and chile.


JW said...

Great post. This is becoming a very nice blog. I hope the other guys are atleast reading... I think I'll make within the next day or 2

JW said...

I love the idea of incorporating a technique into the posts. I have to make 2 gallons of "gluten-free" soup for Tuesday supper at the Church. One of the pastors gets dermatitis herpetiformis, so everyone cooks gluten-free. Perhaps a chicken vegetable soup with rice noodles.