Saturday, July 21, 2012

Salsa Picante de Chile de Árbol

3/4 oz. (50-60) dried chiles de árbol
2 chiles guajillo
1 1/2 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. shelled (green) pumpkinseeds (pepitas)
1/4 cumin seed
4 lg. allspice berries
2 cloves
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 scant tsp. salt
2 lg. cloves garlic, peeled & rough chopped
1/2-3/4 c. cider vinegar

1.)  Stem chiles de árbol, roll between fingers, and shake out as many seeds  as possible. Stem and seed chiles guajillo. In batches, in a coffee/spice grinder, grind the chiles to a fine powder.

2.) Heat an ungreased skillet over medium-low. Add sesame seeds and stir continuously, several minutes, until the brown and pop. DO NOT ALLOW TO BURN. Move seeds to a bowl to cool. Do the same with the pumpkin seeds, until they are golden and have popped into a round form. Allow to cool. When no longer hot, grind both sesame and pumpkin seeds in a spice grinder until they are reduced to a fine powder.

3.) Pulverize cumin, allspice, and cloves in mortar or spice grinder and add to a blender jar with chile powder and ground seeds. Add oregano, salt, garlic, and. vinegar. Process, adding water, a few tablespoons at a time, just enough for the mixture to churn evenly, continuing until it is a satisfying red-orange and is quite smooth when rubbed between your fingers.

4.) Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, working the mixture with a spatula, squeezing every last bit of liquid from the remaining seeds, skins, and sesame hulls. Add water, also a few tablespoons at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency, which should be just slightly thicker than ranch dressing. The original recipe called for another 3/4 c., but I typically find it is considerably less. Refrigerate and allow to sit overnight for the flavors to mingle. The taste will improve over the days and even weeks.

Should it prove too runny, allow the solids to settle for a few days and pour off the fluid that collects at the top.

[Adapted from Rick Bayless's Authentic Mexican, pp. 40-41.]

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Favorite Salsa (Salsa de Chile Morita or Salsa para Barbacoa)

I thought I'd type up the recipe for my very favorite salsa, Diana Kennedy's Salsa para Barbacoa, from her Art of Mexican Cooking (p. 348). This is a fiery, tangy, smoky concoction intended to top barbecued lamb or goat but which goes wonderfully with any richly flavored meat or just served in a bowl with corn chips.

The recipe calls for dried chiles moritas, that is, red serrano peppers that have been smoked and dried, most familiar to American consumers canned in adobo sauce and somewhat misleadingly labeled as chipotles en adobo (actual dried chipotles, or smoked jalepenos, are a few inches long and a mottled tan color). What you should look for is small, sub-2-inch, coffee-colored dried chiles that, unless they are packaged totally air-tight, should smell very smoky. Ideally, the chiles should still be pliable and raison-soft, but if they have dried out some, they should still be fine.

To toast the chiles, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. For most chiles, you want to press them into the pan to flatten them out, but that technique doesn't work too well with the often-brittle chiles de árbol and the often-lumpy chiles moritas that this recipe calls for, so I usually just throw them all into the pan together and toss them around for a few minutes. They're ready when the chiles de árbol turn a lighter shade and become quite brittle and when, an minute or two later, the chiles moritas soften and their skin begins to pucker slightly and discolor. They should give off a spicy, smoky aroma as they toast.


1 lb. tomatos verde, husks removed, rinsed
5-7 chiles moritas, toasted
10 chiles de árbol, toasted
2 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped.
2 tbsp. rough chopped white onion
1/4 tsp. dried oregano, ideally Mexican
1/8 tsp. cumin seed, toasted
3/4 tsp. salt

1.)  Put tomato verde in a pan, cover with water, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, reserving cooking water.

2.)  Crumble dried chiles into blender or food processor, removing about half the seeds as you do so. Add all remaining ingredients, except for the tomato verde, along with 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water. Blend very thoroughly, until nearly smooth. (Some bits of chile skin will survive, but pay no mind).

3.)  Add the tomato verde and blend briefly, just enough to break them up. It should retain a good deal of texture. Serve warm.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pollo en Mole Rójo Sencillo

(Chicken in Red Country Mole,
adapted from Diana Kennedy's "The Art of Mexican Cooking," p. 224)

The Chicken
1 lg. chicken (3.5-4 lbs.), cut into serving pieces, with giblets
1 sm. white onion, rough chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped
water or light chicken broth to cover
salt to taste

The Sauce
2 oz. (about 11) chiles guajillos
2 oz. (about 7) chiles pasillas
2 oz. (about 5) chiles anchos
6 tbsp. lard or cooking oil, divided
5 oz. (1 rounded cup) hulled raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
6-7 c. chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped
3 whole cloves
5 peppercorns
salt to taste

corn tortillas

The Chicken
1.) Put chicken, onion, and garlic in pan. Cover with water or light chicken broth. Salt and bring to a simmer. Cook until nearly tender (not cooked through, about 18-20 minutes.
2). Drain and measure broth. There should be 7 c. If not, make up to that amount.

The Sauce
3.) Remove stems from chiles. Slit open and remove and discard seeds and veins.
4.) Put chiles in a pan and cover with water. Bring to simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes.
5.) Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. lard in frying pan. Add pumpkin seeds and heat over med. until all have swelled and popped. Set aside.
6.) Into blender, add.5 c. broth, garlic, and spices. Blend to thick, textured paste.
7.) Heat remaining oil in heavy pan. Add seed paste, and fry over med. heat, turning and scraping constantly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
8.) To blender, add 1 c. broth and half the chiles. Blend very thoroughly. Add to pan. Repeat with remaining chiles. Use only enough broth to release the blender blades. Add to pan.
9.) Return pan to med. heat, stirring and scraping occasionally, 15 minutes. Add remaining broth and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
10.) Add chicken and cook until tender, the sauce dark red w/ oil beginning to pool on top, about 15 minutes more.

11.) Serve a portion of chicken with lots of sauce, steamed corn tortillas, rice and beans.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Peking Duck with Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy

Serves 2-4, with white rice (probably 2)

If duck is frozen, begin defrosting, ideally, 5 days ahead.


1 Pekin (Long Island) duck, 5-6 lb., giblets removed

Spice Rub
1 tbsp. kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fine grated orange zest
1.5 tsp. coriander seeds, lightly toasted
1.25 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
.5 tsp ground pepper

3 tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, etc.)
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

.5 cup thin sliced cucumbers
3-4 scallions, halved, and then quartered, lengthwise

10-pack Mandarin pancakes


1) Combine spice rub ingredients in spice grinder and grind fine.
2) Prep duck: remove neck, feet, wing tips, and remove excess skin around neck and rear openings.
3) Score the duck fat all over -- breasts, legs, wings, and back -- in a crosshatch pattern, every .5 in., being certain not to cut the meat.
4) Rub 2/3 of the mixture in the duck cavity and the remaining 1/3 over the exterior.
5) Set duck on a rack placed over paper towels to air dry in the refrigerator, 24-48 hrs.

6) 4 hours before serving time, remove duck from refrigerator so it comes to room temp, 1 hr. After 45 minutes, pre-heat stove to 325º.
7) Place duck, breasts down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 1.25 hrs. Flip duck, breasts up, and continue roasting, another 1.25 hrs.
8) Meanwhile, prepare garnishes and combine ingredients for glaze. Prep ingredients for bok choy.
9) Check for doneness. The thigh should pierce very easily and should register 175º on an instant read thermometer. Drain rendered duck fat.
10) Raise oven temp to 525º and glaze duck breasts and thighs with .5 the prepared glaze.
11) Once it comes to temp, return bird to oven, 5 min. Glaze with remaining glaze and roast for 5 min.
12) Transfer duck to cutting board to rest. Prepare stir-fry. Microwave pancakes according to manufacturer's instructions.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy


1.5 lb. baby bok choy

2 tbsp. peanut oil

2 tsp. minced ginger
2 scallions, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 pinch ground pepper


1) Prep bok choy: Cut off 1/8th in. from stem ends. Slice across in .5 in. slices.
2) Combine ginger, scallion, & garlic.
3) Combine salt, sugar, & pepper.
4) Heat oil in wok or large frying pan until just smoking.
5) Add ginger, scallions, & garlic. Stir-fry 30 sec.
6) Add bok choy and seasoning. Stir-fry until white parts are just tender.