Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fooling Around with a Drunk Chicken

If that title got your attention, you are probably going to be disappointed in this entry because it is about some variations I've tried on a recipe from Zarela Martinez cookbook, Food from My Heart, Cuisines of Mexico Remembered and Reimagined. She has a recipe for Pollo Borracho or Drunken Chicken.

I was kind of forced to do a variation on it last week because I didn't have all the ingredients but it turned out very well so I think I'll work on it some more and see if I can't perfect it. I was making this just for the two of us so I was also adjusting for fewer portions as well.

The recipe calls for golden raisins. I used currants and soaked them in Presidente brandy instead of sherry. Ned thought the dish was a little sweet but I liked the contrast of flavors....if I use currants I may have to use less because they may be sweeter than the golden raisins. I liked the color of the currants in the dish better than the golden raisins. I thought the reddish brown added color and contrast to the sauce where the raisins just blended in to the color of the sauce.

We had anchovy stuffed olives instead of the pimento stuffed ones that her recipe calls for and I used them but I wouldn't necessarily make that change. Zarela's recipe calls for whole pimento-stuffed green olives but I prefer them sliced. I have been thinking about substituting capers instead of olives and that would eliminate the decision on whole or sliced pimento stuffed ones.

I used pine nuts instead of almonds....Ned couldn't find any almonds at Espinos. Although the pine nuts worked, the whole blanched almonds may be a better choice....once again because of the "looks." The currants and the pinenuts are close to the same size and if I decide to add capers instead of olives, I'll have all this little round things in the sauce.

I added one roasted poblano cut up and that added a nice aroma and a bit of a ting. Although Zarela doesn't have pickled whole serrano chiles in the recipe, she says that her friend who developed the dish uses them and it makes the dish very picante. The roasted poblano is a nice compromise for the Gringo palate.

Zarela's recipe calls for tequila and white vinegar. I know, I thought the vinegar was a "different ingredient" too. She says add about 1/3 to 1 cup of vinegar...starting with 1/3 cup and then adding by the tablespoon until you like the taste. I used the tequila but cut back a lot on the vinegar but I do think it needs some vinegar to make the right complexity of flavors. I don't think adding the vinegar by the tablespoon and tasting works because as the sauce cooks the taste mellows so it is hard to know when to stop. I'll just use a specified amount....about 1/4 cup. For the tequila she recommends using Sauza or Herradura tequila. Since you are cooking the sauce and it has a wide variety of ingredients and the cooked tequila will leave only the flavor, I'm not sure that the eater of the recipe will know which brand of tequila was used.

I was thinking about how you could make this for a party. The whole chicken pieces of the recipe are hard to handle especially for a buffet, so I think I would use boneless thighs and legs cut into pieces. If I did that I'd need to cook the sauce until just about done and then add the browned chicken pieces back in because the smaller pieces will cook faster. I also think I would cook it all on the top of the stove instead of putting it in the oven.

You know I keep talking about making a little cookbook for here in San Miguel for friends but it may be more work than I want to do. It is one thing to make these variations for myself and adjust as I go along but to codify it for someone else to make might take all the fun out of it. And I'd need to get someone else to try the recipe to see if it could be followed. It is beginning to seem like a lot of work. Well, one of these days when I have time.....maybe.

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