March 08, 2010

March 8: THE MONDAY MENU Authentic Mexican Stew

Today I am sharing a recipe for Mexican stew, because I want you to understand (if you do not already) one of the basic principles of cooking. I want you to taste what it means to build flavors into a dish and how to extract those flavors to their fullest through slow cooking.

One of the best examples of building and extracting flavor from a dish through slow cooking can be seen in the creation of authentic Mexican cuisine. Notice I said "authentic". When most American's think of Mexican food they think of their local restaurant where they can get a bottomless basket of tortilla chips that they can dip into an unlimited supply of salsa while waiting on a poorly seasoned beef or chicken taco or a deep fried burrito. But this is not not authentic Mexican food.

Authentic Mexican cooking is an art form. A single dish can sometimes take hours to prepare. But the food is worth the wait as all the rich and wonderful flavor of each ingredient is extracted by cooking the food "low and slow". Try this simple, easy to prepare stew and you will see what I mean.

Conversation starter: Which country has the best spicy food? Why is spicy food from there better than other countries? Do these countries share a common history that you know of that may have influenced the culture of other cuisines?

Authentic Mexican Stew


3 lbs skinless chicken thighs (bone in) or
2 lbs beef roast cut into large pieces or
2 lbs pork roast cut into large pieces
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large sweet Spanish onion -rough chopped
2 large carrots - rough chopped
2 cups whole kernel corn
6 cloves garlic
2 jalapenos (depending on taste)
1 large dried Ancho chili
4 cups whole stewed tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons dried cumin
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
4 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup cilantro
1 lime cut into wedges


Reconstitute Ancho chili by placing it in water or vegetable oil for twenty minutes. Remove and puree' in a blender or food processor and set aside.

In a large stew pot add vegetable oil and chicken (or other meat), salt and pepper and sautee over medium high heat until meat is browned.

Add onions, reduce heat to medium, and cook an additional seven minutes stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Add remaining ingredients except the corn, lime and cilantro and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer dish for up to four hours or until liquid has reduced by one fourth, stirring occasionally.

At this point check to see if additional salt is needed. Remove jalapenos, and any bones and gristle that may have separated from the meat. Add corn and simmer an additional thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

To serve: Ladle over white or Spanish-styled rice to eat as a stew (or add less broth and wrap in a warm corn tortilla), top with cilantro and drizzle with lime juice.

Serves 4-6

Variations: Garlic can first be roasted and then cooked with the chicken and onions to add another level of flavor to the meat. Add two stalks celery for added depth of flavor. Cook rice in 2 cups of broth from the stew.

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