Puerto Rican Pollo Fake Out Tostadas
Have you ever started a dish with a very particular result in mind but, it takes a completely unexpected but pleasantly surprising turn? That was this dish. I have made Puerto Rican Chicken with Spaghetti several times before, I have even blogged it, so if you are interested in That recipe, please feel free to search for it as it is Really good! This dish started out just like Puerto Rican Chicken with Spaghetti just like it usually does, very fragrant and rich, but, as I said, it took me on quite a journey, two days! and it was, from a culinary sense, more than a wonderful learning experience, it was fantastic! I will get to that in a minute. Let's get started on the recipe. I will tell you why it took the turn that it did very shortly.
1 package six boneless/skinless chicken thighs*
1 28 ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 12-16 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 palm full (or one rounded tablespoon) smoked paprika
4 slices thick cut bacon,chopped, or, one package pork Chorizo
1 teaspoon cumin seed or ground cumin
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh or dry
1 large teaspoon dried or fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1.5 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons pasilla powder
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
In a large dutch oven, add the bacon to a slight drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) to start the dish off. As the bacon fat renders, add about a teaspoon of chipotle powder to the bacon. Stir and mix well to incorporate. When the fat has rendered a bit more than half way, strain half of the fat and remove the bacon.
Meanwhile, season the chicken thighs* with the garlic powder, onion powder, part of the remaining chipotle powder, salt and pepper, some of the oregano thyme, some of the smoked paprika and cumin seed. *I ground the cumin and coriander seeds with a little coarse sea salt, pepper and dried oregano to allow the herbs and spices to release their fragrances in my little mortar and pestle. Now, add the chicken, de-boned side down first, and sear for three minutes, until it gets a good caramelization. The idea is to sear it, get some color on it, but it will finish off braising in the sauce a little later. Be mindful that, if the thigh does not turn when you are ready to, it has not yet released enough sugars to do so, so be patient; it will turn easily when it is ready. Once the chicken thighs have finished searing, remove them.
Next, add the quarter cup of red or white wine vinegar to deglaze the pot. Scrape those burnt on bits with a wooden spoon and stir it in. This is all amazing flavor! Careful, though, the vinegar can be a bit overpowering and will clear out your sinuses!!!
Once you have deglazed the pot, add the onion and and little salt and saute for four or so minutes. Once the onion begins to soften and turn translucent, add the garlic and saute about three minutes, stirring occasionally. The aroma will be hypnotizing, I tell you! Now, add the two canned tomato products and also incorporate those completely.
Add the remaining spices and chicken stock and bring the entire mixture to a boil. Stir thoroughly to incorporate the plethora of ingredients, then reduce the heat to medium. Snuggle in the seared chicken and bacon bits and bring the thickening sauce to a boil.
Once the sauce boils, reduce the heat to low, add fresh herbs, mostly cover the pot, allowing a little steam to escape, and simmer over low for two hours.*
*Here is where the dish takes a turn into adventure-land. The original recipe calls for skin-on, bone-in chicken legs and thighs, but, I did not have that on hand, but I did have the boneless/skinless thighs, so I used those instead. You would season and sear the legs and thighs, as I did above, with the chicken, set aside, and snuggle them into the sauce and simmer. What happened during the simmering, braising process is, the boneless-skinless chicken thighs became so tender that they practically fell apart by themselves in the thick, aromatic sauce. As it braises, the chicken stock reduces and thickens the sauce into a salsa. The acids of the vinegar and the tomatoes reduce and creates a rich, thick, intensely flavorful salsa. What I was left with was basically a chicken, Pollo Salsa. Immediately, my brain told me that the spaghetti part was out. It was not going to be presentable. It was also eleven at night, and my mind was mush. I decided to sleep on it.
Next morning, I knew exactly where this dish was taking me, and then, I challenged myself. It was going to be a tostada. But I did not want to make traditional bean frijoles. I have gotten a bit bean pureed out recently, since the Budget Pantry Meals in June. My challenge was to change it up, make it a bit healthier than bean frijoles. I went with hominy, or, garbanzo beans, which I had several cans of in my pantry. Here is how I progressed with it.
Hominy Frijoles Ingredients:
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1- 2 serrano chiles, seeded and stemmed
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
2 12-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed in a colander
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
In an oven-safe skillet tossed in evoo and salt and pepper, I roasted the aromatics and chile for 15 minutes at 400-degrees. I allowed them to cool while I added the strained and rinsed garbanzo beans to my mom's old 1970s food processor she gave me recently. I added the spices, the roasted veg, about a quarter cup of mixed flat-leaf Italian parsley and cilantro, evoo and pulse processed until it was fairly smooth. I wanted it to have some texture, unlike a hummus. Here is a photo essay of this process.
You can see it has texture, like frijoles.
The ending steps are extremely simple and tasty! I simply took a store-bought tostada tortilla, slathered on my hominy no-cook frijoles, topped with the pollo salsa (what was supposed to be pasta sauce, ergo the "fake out" part!), top with cheese, cilantro and serve! Yes, that is it! Of course, being a pantry meal, I was out of traditional toppings such as shredded cabbage and finely sliced radish. Next time. And yes, I will be making this again! I really enjoyed the surprised this dish had in store for me. This is one of those dishes where I surprised myself, too.
I feel like I can confidently say: "I done good".