I love Mexican food.

I know, I know. Who doesn't love Mexican food? But how many of you have eaten Mexican food prepared by a Mexican woman in a Mexican home? I can think of at least a few of you, some of whom went to Yucatan with me all those years ago. But even as I think back on my past travels in Mexico, they simply don't compare with all the tastes I've experienced since living here with my husband. I also love to cook . . . and eat. And except for Italian pesto, there's nothing like cooking Mexican food in Mexico. I don't like to experiment much when I cook here. There's really no way to improve on the recipes that I've learned from my fabulous mother-in-law, Doña Carmen.

Speaking of recipes from my mother-in-law, the other day as I was preparing José's chocolate ice cream on the stove (no, it's not Mexican food but hear me out), I commented to Doña Carmen that the process was similar to making rompope. Rompope is basically spiked egg nog that's traditionally poured atop cups of jello. Doña Carmen said to me, “I don't remember how to make rompope.” I replied, “Well, you were the one who taught me and now I can teach you if you want.” (We have a rompope date coming up.)

Anyway, back to the point. Mexican food prepared in a Mexican kitchen is an experience that's unequalled in my mouth . . . I mean, mind. I think this has to do in part with the freshness of the food, the many varieties of chile combinations, the unapologetic use of frying pans, super thin slices of meat, and a culture that applauds great tasting food. It's gotten to the point for me that I have no desire to go to Mexican resataurants in the US and I would rather eat food prepared in mine or someone else's home than eat tacos on the street (at least until I get sick of washing dishes without a dishwasher). Some of the foods I especially love are chiles rellenos, beef in three three chile sauce with potatoes and something that we call alambre (beef, chorizo, bell peppers and mozzarella). But my absolute favorite is Pollo a la poblana. (For vegetarians, just omit the chicken. The whole point is a la poblana.)

I wanted to post a picture here but all the images I found actually look kind of nasty. Instead you get pictures of each step. If I ever get a mobile device with a camera I'll try to take a tasty-looking picture for all of you. For now just close your eyes and imagine your tase buds having a party.

Here's the recipe:

  • 4-6 pieces of bone-in, skinless chicken, dark or white meat
  • 6 poblano chiles, choose ones that are not too tough and not too squishy
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 can corn
  • 16 oz. container Mexican-style sour cream, Dairygold makes this (if it comes in 8 oz. containers, get one of those instead) or go to your local Mexican goods store
  • cooking oil
  • salt

Instruccions:

1. Roast the poblano chiles until all the outer skin is blackened. I prefer to do this over a gas flame because the chiles hold their texture better, but this can also be done about five inches from a broiler for about five minutes on each side. Place the blackened chiles in an airtight bag or container for at least half an hour. This causes the chiles to “sweat,” thus allowing the blackened skin to loosen and further softening the flesh.

 

 

2. While the chiles “sweat,” place the chicken in a stockpot and barely cover with water. Add a sizeable chunk of onion, a clove of garlic, and salt. If you like to add other stuff like pepper or celery or cilantro, go ahead. I always go basic with just the first three. Cover. Boil/simmer the chicken until soft. It's interesting to me that in Mexico, the desired softness in chicken requires about an hour of boiling but in the States it's more like 20-30 minutes.

 

3. When the chiles are done “sweating,” remove the blackened skin and discard. The skin should come off easily by gently rubbing it off with your fingers. Sometimes, though, especially if you're not careful over the gas flame, there may be dimples where the skin wasn't blackened enough and you have to pick at it a little more, or where the flesh was blackened along with the skin and the skin doesn't separate. You may need to discard these sections to preserve the taste of the chiles. The skin will stick to your fingers as it rubs off so I frequently rinse with water. However, avoid running water directly over the chiles as this will dilute their flavor.

 

4. Cut a slit into one side of the skinned chiles and remove the seeds and veins. Rip off the stems. Unlike with chiles rellenos, you don't have to be especially careful about removing veins and seeds. The veins are the super spicy part so make sure to remove as much of them as possible, but do try to do it without taking too much flesh off in the process. And don't rub your eyes after. Ouch.

 

5. Slice the chiles into 1/4 inch strips. Finely slice at least half the onion.

 

6. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons cooking oil and when a drop of water sizzles sharply, add the onion and chile slices. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the chiles are really soft, add salt to taste. You might be surprised by how much salt is needed to create a nice flavor.

 

7. Reduce heat and add about half a 16 oz. container of Mexican-style sour cream. Drain the corn and add to the chile mixture. You can also add a little of the corn juice for another hint of flavor. Add about 1/2 cup of broth from the cooked chicken to the mixture. Use less or more broth according to the consistency you desire. When everything is nice and hot, add the chicken.

8. Serve with white or red rice and corn tortillas.

Alternately, you could grill or sautee some chicken breasts and serve it with the creamy poblano-onion mixture.

Eat your hearts out.

 

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