Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April 2: Stewed Chicken with Anchos and Almonds

One of my very favorite cookbooks in my arsenal is one called The Well-Filled Tortilla. I love food in the form of a taco (let's be perfectly honest: I would probably love food in the form of a lug wrench. I just love food) and this wonderful little gem of a cookbook takes every imaginable flavor and applies it to a taco. There are Asian flavors, Middle-Eastern Flavors, French Bistro flavors, traditional Mexican flavors, and even all-American flavors, all wrapped in tortillas in different forms. I just think that almost any food on earth tastes even better wrapped in a tortilla.

This is one of the things I'd never have thought of wrapping in a tortilla. The authors of the book explain that "During stewing, chicken sops up flavors and aromas like a beauty queen soaks up flattery. At the same time, the meat cooks to such a moist tenderness it practically shreds itself."

I am not generally a fan of dark meat, although our favorite barbecue joint in our neighborhood has a barbecued half-chicken that is cravably good. But whole chickens are cheap and easy to find and make this recipe a real bargain, as well as being true comfort food. Chicken becomes even more mellow while resting in its own sauce, incidentally: the leftovers for this are even better than the original dish.

Stewed Chicken With Almonds and Anchos

4-5 pounds chicken pieces, a combination of breasts, thighs, and legs, or 1 1/2 chickens, quartered

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Small pinch of ground cinnamon

4 whole cloves

2 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cans (14 oz. each) crushed tomatoes in puree

3 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon oil

1/2 cup almond slivers

18 corn or 12 flour tortillas, warmed or crisped just before serving

Toppings: 2 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

2 cups cilantro leaves

In a large nonreactive pot, combine the chicken, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, chiles, salt, tomatoes, and 3 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the meat pulls away from the bones, 35-45 minutes. Remove the chicken and chiles and set aside. Continue to simmer the sauce for 15 minutes while the chicken cools.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the almonds, and stir until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken; discard the skin and bones. Scrape the pulp off the chile skins. Return the chicken and chile pulp to the pot.

To assemble, spread about 1/3 cup of the chicken and sauce in the center of a tortilla. Top with the whipped cream, toasted almonds, and cilantro. Fold and serve.


merseydotes said...

I wonder if I keep fewer Mexican ingredients on hand than the average person. I read so many of your recipes that call for various kinds of fresh, canned and dried peppers, and I am up a creek. I'm sure I could find those things easily at the local Giant, but it just never occurs to me to stock up on them.

Molly said...

Well, I cook with them a lot, probably more often than the average person, so I tend to have them on hand. They are all mostly available at local grocery stores in neighborhoods with a fairly diverse population. Dried peppers are maybe a little tougher to find, particularly good fresh ones that haven't turned to dust after three months on the grocery shelves. Whole Foods is a good source for them, though.