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WND – The Bee’s Knees

October 29, 2009

red peppers - y

I come from a family that firmly believes that you should try everything at least once, and that when in Rome you should eat like the Romans, or like the Istanbulians or the Athenians or the Toledans or the Singaporeans or the Siamese, depending on where you happen to be at the time.  I’m absolutely on board with those theories right up until the food in front of me is raw, because I know it makes me a bad foodie but I really can’t get past the uncooked thing when it comes to raw meat/fish. 

Issues with raw food notwithstanding, I love pretty much all forms of ethnic food*, except Mexican food.  I just can’t quite get excited about it.  I don’t really understand why.  I like all the individual ingredients that go into it – cheese, starch, sour cream, avocado, some form of protein – but somehow when you put them all together I’m underwhelmed.  It’s possible this is because I’ve only ever had Mexican food in the Northeast, which admittedly is not a hot spot of Mexican cuisine and I think people who like Mexican food think of what’s on offer in Boston in about the same terms as I think of most Chinese food on offer in Boston.  Which is to say, I always wonder why it comes with Italian bread and chicken fingers.

I will, however, make an exception for anything made by Rick Bayless who is the premiere advocate and chef of Mexican cuisine in the US.  Oddly enough he’s not Mexican at all, he’s from a long line of Oklahoma barbeque restaurateurs, but he fell in love with Mexican culture, language and cuisine in college and then took himself south of the border and spent years learning how to make authentic mole.  He brought that knowledge back to the US and reinvented American Mexican cuisine – or rather, introduced most of America to authentic regional Mexican cooking.  This is relevant because the recipe for tonight’s dinner came from Rick Bayless and if I hadn’t been hooked by the pumpkin in the mole, I would have been sold just because it’s Rick Bayless.  And, as we learned from Top Chef Masters this summer, Rick Bayless is the bee’s knees dressed up in the cat’s pajamas** and the next time I’m in Chicago I’m eating at one of his restaurants.

* I have, however, conceived of a dislike for the term ethnic food because it implies a post-colonialist mental positioning – we don’t call French or Italian or British food ethnic, but Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern food is all labeled ethnic.  Why?  Because they use a different ingredient list, and flavor palate?  Because it’s what you used to be forced to eat when you were stationed in the far off colonies and you couldn’t get a nice cut of roast beef for Sunday dinner?  Because they are the foreign other and we are the norm?  Do Indians refer to shepherd’s pie as ‘ethnic food’?  On the other hand, it is possible that I’m over thinking this just a tad.

** Also learned from Top Chef Masters: Michael Chiarello is kind of a tool, and Hubert Keller is awesomely and charmingly French.

Creamy Pumpkin Mole
Chipotle Glazed Roasted Chicken
Black Beans & Rice
Broccoli

Creamy Pumpkin Mole
(makes enough for 12+ people)

This is spicy.  Even with the cream and the pumpkin, it’s very spicy and a little bit of mole on your chicken will go a long way. 

2 dried ancho chilies, stemmed, seeded, torn into large pieces
2 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, sliced into rings
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 thick slice country white bread, crust trimmed
¾ cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
3 ½ cups low-salt chicken broth
2 canned chipotle chilies, drained
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

mole - y

Heat heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chili pieces; toast until aromatic and lighter in color around edges, pressing with potato masher or back of fork and turning pieces, about 2 minutes. Set aside one 2-inch piece of chili for garnish; transfer remaining pieces to medium bowl. Cover chilies in bowl with hot water; soak until soft, about 30 minutes.

In same large pot, heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion rings and garlic. Sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to processor, leaving oil in pot. Add bread slice to pot; cook until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer bread to processor (reserve pot). Add tomatoes to processor. Puree mixture until smooth. Transfer tomato puree to small bowl (do not clean processor).

Drain ancho chilies and place in processor. Add ½ cup broth and chipotle chilies. Puree until smooth.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to reserved pot. Heat over medium-high heat. Add ancho chili puree; cook until puree thickens and darkens, stirring often, about 1 ½ minutes. Add tomato puree. Simmer until thick, stirring often, about 4 minutes.

Whisk in pumpkin and 3 cups broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until mole thickens and reduces to 3 ½ cups, about 30 minutes. Whisk in cream and sugar. Season to taste with salt.

Mole can be made 3 days in advance, cover and chill.

Chipotle Glazed Roasted Chicken
I was going to pan roast these chicken breasts, but in the end I had to cave to the reality that I just didn’t have enough pots, pans and burners to do that.  So, I roasted them on a baking sheet instead.
2 canned chipotle chilies, drained
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp honey
6-8 chicken breasts (about 3.5-4 lb)

Puree oil and chipotle chilies in small processor and then force through a sieve to make a thick glaze.  Whisk in honey.  Glaze can be made 3 days ahead, cover and chill.

glaze - y

Lightly coat a baking sheet with some olive oil.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Season it with salt and pepper and then brush with the glaze.  Roast in a  400-425 oven for 30-40 minutes (until the internal temperature reaches 175).

baked chicken  - y

Black Beans & Rice
(serves eight)

4 strips bacon, diced
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped
3 (15oz) can of black beans, drained & rinsed
½ cup chicken broth (generous ½ cup)
5 to 10 dashes Tabasco sauce or other hot red pepper sauce

2 ½ cups (uncooked) rice

In a large sauté pan, fry the bacon until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy.   Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until lightly browned.

bacon & onions - y

Add the roasted pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Add the black beans, chicken broth, and Tabasco sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until heated through.

Cook your rice however you usually cook your rice – I do mine with a 2 parts water : 1 part rice ratio at a simmer for 25 minutes.

Serve either separately, or mix the two together.

Broccoli

broccoli - y

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