Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mexican Dinner for 6 Part Three (making the meal)

First comes the mole, then comes the guacamole then comes the tortilla chips then comes the souffle, Easy! (right?!)

I hopped (actually it took way longer than a hop, more like a bus a walk and a schlep and a bus!) to Target this morning to pick up a coffee grinder in order to pulverize my whole spices.

First step in the mole!
Boil the chicken thighs (calls for turkey but I didn't see turkey thighs at the market) in the chicken broth with 2 bay leaves and for 1 hour. During that hour, make the rest of the mole ingredients! Good luck!

Just kidding. :)

In 2 Tbsp of canola (or vegetable oil) toast your peanuts and almonds; at the last second toss in the sesame seeds to be lightly toasted. Don't over do it! burned nuts are no good! Set aside.

Heat up a dry pan on medium heat, toss in the anise seed, cinnamon stick, whole allspice and whole black peppercorns and heat- stirring until fragrant. Use a coffee bean grinder or mortar and pestle and grind up the spices until very fine.

The chicken has been cooking for almost an hour at this point. Remove form the heat and let the chicken cool in the broth mixture for 30 minutes. Set the chicken aside and keep the broth handy.

While the chicken is cooling, now is the time to prep the chips! Take your corn tortillas, smear a little oil on them (I don't have a pastry brush so I used my fingers) then cut the stack into quarters or sixths. Lay on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and set aside.

Chop tomatoes and combine with soaked chilis and onions (prepped the day before) and toasted nut mix and spices in food processor. Add some chicken broth from the pan and blend until you have a smooth paste. I probably could have blended longer for a finer texture, but I was more interested in being able to fit it all into my little food processor. Be sure you can fit it all if not divide everything into 2 and make 2 batches which you can then mix together.

In another large saucepan, pour some vegetable oil and dump the contents from the food processor in and sautee "until the fat starts rising to the top, about 20 minutes". I don't think I waited for that to happen. Then add in the chocolate, the most infamous ingredient in mole! Once the chooclate was melted, I slowly added chicken stock to the sauce then ignored my instinct and added all the remaining stock like the recipe said. I do not advise this! If you have eated something before that you are making and you are somewhat familiar with it... follow your instincts or look it up online! (I do that whenever I come up with something to cook, just to see if it's been done before). Once the sauce is well stirred and combined you can push it through a sieve for a smoother sauce, or line up your chicken thighs in a 9x13 and pour the sauce over the top. Put in the over at 325 for 1 1/2 hours.

While that is cooking, you can make your guacamole! I left the avocados double paper-bagged on the windowsill. I chose avocados as ripe as I could get the day before and they were perfect the next day! I scooped out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl and began mashing with a fork which proved difficult so I stepped up to a pastry blender! It worked wonderfully! Then I stirred in the previously prepped ingredients (sans chili pepper) and pushed a plastic wrap directly on the surface of teh guac and placed it in the fridge. Placing the plastic directly on (and pushing out air bubbles) prevents oxidization which makes your beautiful green avaocado turn brown.

When the timer on your dinner says 30 minutes, put your first tray of chips in on the bottom rack (or both if you have more than one rack) and bake for about 15 minutes- they shoudl be crisp rather than limp when you slide them off the sheet and sprinkle some sea salt onto them. Trust me, your guests wil be awesed that they are having fresh tortilla chips. And it is way to easy for you that have any excuse not to do it again. The tortilla chips cost $1.19. If I'd gone with the giant pack, Mexican brand we'd have had maybe 4 times as many chips, but I didn't want leftovers. It is a lot cheaper than buying chips that are already made- and you have control over how much and what kind of oil is used. Control is good when it comes to what you are putting in your body.

When there are 15 minutes left on the timer, it's time to prepare the quinoa, according to the package directions. Bring 2 cups of water for every 1 cup quinoa to boil (all at the same time) and cover. Let it boil for about 15 minutes (then take your chicken out of the oven! Dinner for 6 is such a choreographed dance.) Then serve!

Change the oven to 350 (whatever the souffle recipe says the temp needs to be)

About 10 minutes into dinner, remove the souffle form the fridge and put in the oven, set the timer for 25 minutes. The souffle was tasty, it wasn't cooked all the way through and it didn't rise very high but it became something like the combination of a pot de crem and a flourless chocolate cake. The souffle was served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. The spice mixture that was used was mostly tasted afterwards- a slight chili burning senesation that remained in your throat after you'd finished your dessert. That Dagoba hot chocolate mix was intense as a drink. I think it's an excellent concept for a souffle but the exact amounts of spices has yet to be explored.

  • Follow your instincts in the kitchen
  • When a recipe tell you to put in all of something that's left, in particular after it's been cooking a while, question how much they expected it to reduce
  • Don't make a souffle the night before if you want it to puff up. It might be possible to make the chocoalte portion and set the eggwhites and chocolate mixture in the fridge until the next day. Then you would take both out to get to room temperature, and then follow the directions from that point on.
  • Keep track of spending and keep an eye on cheaper options for different ingredients. The bagged mexican spices are cheaper than the organic or small glass jar ones.
  • If you have access to bulk foods use them. You ingredients will be fresher and you can only buy what you need/ will use in the nearby future.
  • Buy a coffee grinder if you want the freshest spices possible. It was easy to crush the spices and they were very fragrant and fresh. Even after washing the platic lid though, it smelled of spices. So I wouldn't recommend interchanging coffee and spices unless you want them to all intermingle.
  • Have more dinner parties and push what you try to make and keep track of recipes and the cost of ingredients. This meal was about $7.80 per person, (less if you count that there was once piece of chicken left over). For an appetizer, main dish and dessert.

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