Cocoa-Chipotle Tacos

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

E: At this very moment, sitting here writing this, I am five days away from receiving my college diploma. And, truth be told, it is and isn’t exciting. I always sort of figured I would get here, and so it isn’t exciting in an “I made it!” kind of way (though it is a relief to have made it through this semester alive). But I’m ready to either have the chance to go back in time and do it all again, or to be done and move on. And I am certainly ready to do that. As much as I’d like to put this week in stasis, before everyone goes their separate ways for a while or for ever, I’m truly ready to have some free time to do the things I want to do with my life.

One of those things is most certainly to get better at cooking, which is a big part of why Joanna and I do this blog thing anyway, rather than just making tasty food and consuming it in obscurity. Photographing and publishing about food forces you to be more critical of things that you make, to try them again and attempt to get them just right (I still have some gingerbread photos from Thanksgiving that haven’t gone up because the result was just so unpalatable to me that I have to find a successful recipe to post beside it, or I will feel like I’ve failed in my duties). And it also gives you a sort of reward, beyond the immediate gustatory satisfaction of preparing an excellent meal:  you get to share it with friends and strangers alike. Successes and failures alike will endure.

I wish I'd had time to make my own tortillas

This certainly belongs in the success category, though I’m sure it could be improved. These tacos are a twist on another Macheesmo recipe. I knew at the time that I wanted to make tacos, and whenever I’m looking for something Mexican, Macheesmo is one of the places I check. I made these at home, for my parents, shortly after Joanna and I made these tacos. I was inspired, and since I had to head back to the Northeast for school and didn’t have time to finish the leftovers, I had to make some more for me. Problem:  my mother is not a chipotle fan. I’ll admit, the adobo sauce the peppers are packed in has a strong smoky flavor that could be too much for some people. So this time I played around with dried chipotle peppers, keeping some heat in the tacos but avoiding the adobo sauce issue, and mellowing out the smokiness with some rich cocoa powder. These amounts made 9-10 fairly large tacos, which would be enough for 5-6 people I think.

Ingredients: (original recipe here)

Chicken & stock:
3 chicken cutlets (or your choice)
5 cloves garlic
2 stalks celery
1 small yellow onion
Small handful of peppercorns
2 dried chipotles
Handful of cilantro

Sauce for the chicken:
2 c. tomato sauce (ingredients below, from the marinara sauce recipe here)
{1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Juice of 1/4 lemon}

1/2 c. stock from cooking chicken
3 dried chipotles, 2 dried anchos
2 additional cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 c. cilantro
1 lime, juice only
Salt and pepper
Dash nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar (if necessary)

For the tacos:
Tortillas
Cilantro
Lime wedges
Cheese
Red onion, sliced

First step is to prepare the stock for the chicken. Add everything from the “Chicken & stock” section to a pot. I used a deep skillet, but a regular pot would do just fine.

stuff in a pot, exciting!

Just roughly chop it all, and fill the skillet/pot with enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, put a cover on it, and then let it simmer away while the chicken cooks and you get on to other things. It should take somewhere around 25 minutes, but it will depend heavily on what kind of chicken you get and how thick it is.

more stuff in a pot = more exciting!

Now, move on to other things. I went straight to preparing my chipotle and ancho chilies for the sauce. You’ll want to fry the peppers to help release some of their excellent flavors. A little oil in a small skillet will do the trick.

perhaps soak these before frying them up

I cooked my peppers dry, and I found the peppers needed quite a bit more moisture to be cut-able (I sort of hacked them apart to get the seeds out). So I soaked them after frying, which made me sad because I’m sure it cut the flavor down a bit as it rinsed off a lot of the oil. I’d do it in the opposite order, soaking them in hot water for a little bit, patting them dry and then frying them in oil until they get nicely browned on the outside. In any case, set them aside to cool for a bit before you cut them.

blend up the tomato component to the sauce

While you are waiting for the peppers to cool a bit, make the rest of the sauce. Just throw all the ingredients for the sauce in and blend it up (we’ll add the stock in a bit). The order doesn’t matter much, except I’d wait on the sugar until you taste the finished product.

still dry, I soaked them after this

When the peppers are cut-able, remove all their seeds and toss them in the blender too. You’ll eventually end up with a smooth, spicy sauce. Taste it to see if it needs anything, like maybe a little sugar.

blended smooth

Now you are basically set until the chicken finishes. When it is done, remove it from the stock (retain at least 1/2 cup and add that to the sauce, but why not just keep the rest and do something with it?), and shred it in a bowl.

brutalizing meat, again

When it looks like the above, throw it in a pot with the sauce (I used the same deep skillet I cooked the chicken in). Simmer this for a while while it cooks down and thickens up.

start cooking the sauce down

While that is happening, prepare an artful plate of garnishes for your tacos. And maybe cook some tortillas if you decided to prepare your own. You should have about 15-20 minutes of cooking the sauce down.

lay out a pretty plate of condiments

When the sauce looks like that below, you can stop. I would have continued for another few minutes but everyone was getting hungry, and the sauce was sufficiently thick.

this is where I stopped cooking

Serve topped with cheese, cilantro, onions, and lime juice.

dressed to impress

I hope you like these as much as I did, but they would be so much better with homemade tortillas. Next time I’m going to try melting chocolate instead of using cocoa powder and see how that goes. Enjoy!

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