Thursday, March 5, 2009

CSA week 13 - Cold beef, avocado and chipotle salad

This is a variation on a Rick Bayless recipe. I've been watching his Mexico: One Plate at a Time show recently so when I had a pile of Mexican ingredients and no particular plans I checked out his website. A lot of interesting recipes there and, an aspect I liked a lot, lots of variations on them too. The nice thing about variations is, for beginners it gives a range of recipes to follow and for the more experienced cook it reveals what's central to the dish, what's ancillary and how the pieces fit together. Here's the recipe cut and pasted from his site with a few notes and pics added.

Cold Chicken and Avocado with Chipotle Chile
Pollo, Aguacate y Chile Chipotle en Frio
Yield: about 3 1/2 cups, enough for 12 tacos, serving 4 as a light main course [This is the only place he mentions tacos. You'd think "spoon into tortillas" would be part of the serving instructions, but I think guests are supposed to do that themselves at the table after the actual serving and there's a basic assumption of "what else would you do with it?" so the instruction got left out.]
The chicken for this salad can be prepared 1 or 2 days in advance and then mixed with the dressing just before serving. Great for a summer picnic.
1 chicken leg-and-thigh quarter or 1 large breast half
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 small (about 6 ounces total) boiling potatoes like the red-skinned ones, halved
2 medium (about 6 ounces total) carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 canned chiles chipotles, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 small onion, finely diced
4 large romaine lettuce leaves, sliced in 3/8-inch strips, plus several whole leaves for garnish
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 slice of onion, broken into rings, for garnish
  1. The chicken mixture. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan, add the chicken and salt, skim off the foam that rises as the water returns to a boil, partially cover and simmer over medium heat—23 minutes for the dark meat, 13 minutes for the breast. If there is time, cool the chicken in the broth. Boil the potatoes and carrots in salted water to cover until they are just tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Rinse for a moment under cold water, strip off the potato skins, if you wish, then cut the potatoes and carrots into 3/8-inch dice. Place in a large mixing bowl. Skin and bone the chicken, then tear the meat into large shreds and add to the potatoes. Skim off all the fat on top of the broth, then measure 3 tablespoons of broth into a small bowl. Stir in the vinegar, oregano and salt. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and add the sliced chiles chipotles and chopped onion. Stir, cover and let stand for 45 minutes, refrigerated or at room temperature.
  2. Finishing the dish. Shortly before serving, mix the sliced lettuce and diced avocado into the chicken mixture. Drizzle with oil and toss lightly. Taste for salt. Line a serving platter with the remaining romaine leaves and pile on the chicken mixture. Decorate with the onion rings and serve.
Chiles Chipotles: In Mexico City, dishes like this often utilize pickled (not adobo-packed) chipotles. Without any chipotles at all, this dish loses many of its special qualities, though a nice salad can be made using pickled jalapeños and chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), if desired.
Timing and Advance Preparation
The active preparation time is less than 45 minutes, though you’ll need to start a couple of hours before serving. The chicken mixture can marinate overnight, covered and refrigerated; complete the final dressing within 15 minutes of serving. [I didn't find I needed much more than an hour prep time total. I think he's giving really long cooling times.]
Variations on the Salpicón Theme: The proportions and selection of the main ingredients should be kept loose. Meats such as ham and leftover pork or beef roast can easily be substituted for the cooked chicken.
[I had beef but it wasn't leftover. I didn't think it would respond well to boiling like chicken would so I braised it instead. I'd rather have given it a longer time but I was hungry. I kept it to twenty minutes cooking and then physically tenderized it during shredding by removing excess connective tissue.]
Smoked Chicken Salad with Avocado and Chipotle: Replace the cooked chicken with 4 or 5 ounces (about 2/3 cup) diced smoked chicken. Serve on plates lined with lightly dressed curly lettuce leaves.

It turned out pretty good. The chewiness of the beef and, to a lesser extent, the tortilla contrasts with the soft cooked vegetables, crisp raw vegetables and creamy avocado to give a lot of textural interest. There's a nice combination of flavors here with subtle heat and tartness against the savory beef, smoky chipotles and the bright freshness of the vegetables. The tortilla both holds the salad together physically and tempers the sharpness of the dressing to keep everything in balance. I considered making the pickled jalapeño variation, but I'm glad I didn't. The vinegar would have been overwhelming; the chipotles give this dish a lot of character.


kat said...

We're a big fan of his recipes for cooking Mexican. Sounds like some bad editing that the assembly direction was left out

billjac said...

Well, it was a page on his website. Maybe in the cookbook it was in the "stuff to put in tortillas" section. Or maybe all of Mexican cuisine is the "stuff to put in tortillas" section?

It would have been only slightly less good as a salad so no big deal either way.