Monday, May 07, 2007

Cinco De Mayo With Yucatean Spices

I have been going through two of books on Mexican cuisine by Rick Bayless. Mexican Everyday takes authentic Mexican dishes and gives it a little tweak here and there to make a quick, wholesome meal. Mexico One Plate at a Time is the companion book to his award winning series on PBS by the same name. The second book is little more detailed, with an emphasis on technique and ingredients. I had earmarked some recipes but had not found the time or the occasion to tackle even one till Cinco De Mayo came along this weekend. Instead of the tradional tequilla soaked revelry (on second thoughts that would have been fabulous too) we indulged in a quick, Mexican meal of Yucatean Garlic Spice Chicken skewers, fire roasted salsa, grilled peppers and garlic bread. We did not have any tortillas so we had to make do with garlic bread....which I have to admit was a rather nice substitute. Here's a really ugly picture of the spread.

The original chicken recipe (from Mexican Everyday)called for Mexican cinnamon, which is very different from cassia, its cheaper, stronger cousin. Most powdered cinnamon available in the market is actually cassia as once powdered the two are virtually indistiguishable. If you buy your cinnamon whole, then go ahead and use half a teaspoon of it. I used a teaspoon as I love the combined flavour of sweet cinnamon and the other more savoury ingredients in this marinade. I did not have Mexican oregano and used double the quantity of ordinary oregano instead. If you have the real thing, you could halve the quantity used.

Using thigh pieces instead of breast pieces resulted in a very moist and flavourful end product with a definitive garlicky bite. I doused my skewers with a liberal squeeze of lime juice for added tang. I will definitely make this again and next time around I might even add roasted jalapenos to the marinade for a wee bit more heat.

Ingredients:
Garlic - 1 head, about 12 cloves of the slightly larger size
Vegetable Oil - 1/3 cup
Vinegar - 6 tbsps
Cloves - 4 , ground
Black Pepper - 1 tsp, freshly ground
Cinnamon - 1 tsp, ground
Dried Oregano - 2 tsps
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Chicken - 2 lbs, boneless, skinless thighs cut into inch pieces
Skewers - as many as needed

Method:
1. On a skillet toast the unpeeled garlic cloves till they develop spots. Let them cool and then simply peel the papery skins. In a blender/food processor, proccess with vegetable oil till smooth.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and process once more.
3. Add marinade to chicken and let the flavours develop for about an hour in the refridgerator.
4. Thread chicken onto presoaked skewers. Cook in preheat oven at 375 F till chicken is done. Alternatively the skewers could also be grilled if a grill is available.
5. Serve with lime wedges and fire roasted salsa.

*For the fire roasted salsa, just roast 4-5 unpeeled garlic cloves, one jalapeno pepper and 3-4 ripe plum tomatoes on a skillet till all develop black spots. Slip the papery skins of the garlic cloves, roughly chop the tomato and the jalapeno. Process these three in a blender till required consistency is reached. Finely chop half a white onion and wash in cold water a couple of times. Add onions to the proccesed tomatoes. Season with vinegar, salt, sugar and cilantro as per taste.

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