Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos & Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca


Happy Taco Tuesday! It's my favorite non-holiday. I love that it occurs weekly, and that there are so many styles of tacos that can be enjoyed in honor of the occasion. Whether you make the basic, tried and true ground beef tacos, or something more complex and time consuming, it's bound to be delicious.

There are definitely some similarities between these Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos and these Guajillo-Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos. They both utilize the same technique, but with some variances in the braising liquid. This particular recipe uses a combination of ancho and dried chipotle chiles as well as beer and tequila. It calls for a whole habanero, which I omitted. The filling was sufficiently spicy without it!

Chicken thighs and much cheaper than beef short ribs, so arguably this recipe is a lot more approachable and cheaper to make than the latter. It's incredibly flavorful, juicy, and just out-of-this-world good!

Although I loved the short rib tacos, these chicken tacos are more accessible (and like I said CHEAPER) to make, and will grace my table more often. You can easily make this filling ahead of time and either freeze or refrigerate and gently reheat the day of. On the side I served up some Rice-o-licious (also from the Tacolicious cookbook), and my beloved refried black beans.

To cool down some of the spiciness from these tacos, I served them with Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca. Agua fresca is one of my favorite things. It's so easy to make, and you can easily adapt it to use whatever fruits you have on hand and enjoy. Most of my family members guessed this agua fresca contained watermelon from the color, but it weighed heavily on pineapple with a hint of blueberry. It reminded me almost of fruit nectar, and had a wonderful and refreshing quality. A couple folks even spiked theirs with vodka or rum and thought it made a wonderful cocktail.

Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos
Makes about 16 tacos; serves 4 to 6
(From Tacolicious)

3 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or more if needed
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 habanero chile, stemmed (I omitted this entirely, and it was sufficiently spicy without it)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (12-ounce) can favorite beer
1 shot (1 1/2 ounces) favorite tequila
1 cup chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
1 cup diced canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa of your choice for serving

Toast the ancho and chipotle chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat, turning once, for about 30 seconds on each side, until fragrant but not blackened. Take care they do not burn. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, add the chicken thighs and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side, until browned. Add an extra drizzle of oil if needed to prevent sticking. As the thighs are ready, transfer them to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion and habanero (if using) to the oil remaining in the pot and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the onion is caramelized. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the toasted chiles, beer, tequila, broth, tomatoes, salt, cumin, and oregano, turn down the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until the chiles have completely softened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

While the oven is heating, pour the chile mixture into a blender and process until almost completely smooth (a little texture is fine). Return the chicken to the pot and pour the pureed sauce evenly over the top.

Cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook for 2 hours. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring if necessary to prevent sticking, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender. If the sauce starts to reduce too much and the chicken begins to stick, add a little water or broth. Remove from the oven and use tongs or a fork to loosely shred the chicken, leaving it in the sauce.

Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, and lime.

Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca
Serves 6 to 8

5 cups (700 g) chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
5 cups water

Add the pineapple, blueberries, sugar, and lime juice to a blender along with 3 cups of water. Puree until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a large pitcher and then stir in the remaining 2 cups of water (the foaminess will eventually subside). Taste and adjust sweetness or acidity if needed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pineapple Pie for Pi Day


Happy Pi Day! It's that time of year to celebrate pi and of course pie. For math nerds, pi is used in the equation to determine the area of a circle, but for pie enthusiasts pi day (March 14 aka 3.14 aka pi) is an occasion to celebrate the most delicious circle-shaped dessert in the history of desserts: pie (sorry cake and cookies).

I love making pie. I love eating pie. I love everything about pie. Last year I started a resolution to bake at least one pie a month, and I've kept that resolution going this year as well. It's a delicious goal, and I hope to maintain it as long as possible.

There are many varieties of pie I could have made this year in honor of pi day, but I decided to try something very outside of the box.

I'd never eaten or made a pineapple pie before this. I have made an amazing hummingbird pie which contains pineapple, but not an explicitly pineapple pie. I found this recipe in First Prize Pies, and it's not just a standard pie filled with pineapple, but rather the fresh chopped pineapple is held together by a beautiful lime custard.

It's a cross between a custard pie and a fruit pie. The filling is very reminiscent of key lime custard with juicy bursts of pineapple, all wrapped up up a flaky crust topped with a shimmering layer of sugar.

I have never before made a predominantly custard filled pie that was topped with pastry crust (they are usually single-crust pies), but this was excellent! I loved the additional layer of crust on top, and the raw sugar adds some additional sweetness to cut through some of the tartness of the filling.

This year Pi Day falls on a Wednesday, but you can still celebrate the occasion with a homemade pie this coming weekend, or even this evening. Yes, homemade pie dough should rest at least an hour or preferably overnight before rolling it out, but you can probably cheat it a little to whip up some homemade pie in honor of this very special day.

Pineapple Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
(From First Prize Pies)

4 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (30 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick/55 g) melted butter
2 cups (362 g) chopped fresh pineapple (from 1 medium-large pineapple)
Pie dough for one double-crust pie
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Raw sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the sugar, lime zest, rum (if using) and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and butter until full blended, then whisk them into the egg mixture. Stir in the pineapple.

Roll out one half of the dough into a circle about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, trim the overhang to 1 inch, and fill it with the pineapple mixture.

Roll out the remaining circle of dough to about 10 inches, lay it over the pie, and trim and crimp the edges to your liking. Brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle with raw sugar, and cut slits in the top crust.

Bake the pie on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, rotating it once halfway through. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake it for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and full baked and the filling doesn't jiggle under the crust when the baking sheet is moved. Allow the pie to cool completely before serving. This pie can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week; allow it to come to room temperature or heat it gently in a warm oven before serving. This pie can also be frozen after baking: Wrap it well in plastic, then in foil, and freeze it for up to 2 months.


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