Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pipián Verde and Mexican White Rice

I was recently talking about food with my friend Heidi, and when I mentioned that we eat quite a bit of Mexican, she pointed out how poorly represented that is on my blog. I've mentioned the tacos, which are really so simple and easy it seems silly to mention them, except that they taste so good. I also posted a recipe for green poblano rice, which I don't make often enough considering how nice it is. And I have a few recipes tucked away in my head that I go to semi-frequently for Mexican food, namely stuffed poblano chiles (which I'll have to go into another day) and pipián verde con pollo.

Pipián verde, also known as mole verde, is a creamy, bright sauce that gets the base of its flavor from ground, toasted pumpkin seeds. You can often buy pumpkin seeds near the produce section (at least in my grocery store) already toasted, which is very handy and makes for a quick dinner when paired with a quality carton of chicken stock from the store and a good rotisserie chicken (DON'T assume your quality store has a delicious chicken...I've made this mistake!), but I prefer the flavor of home-toasted pumpkin seeds, and the process takes about 5-10 minutes total, so it's not a huge effort. Plus, pumpkin seeds are less expensive when they're not toasted. I buy them in my grocery store's bulk section; you can often find them in the Mexican/Latin section of your grocery store or at a Latin market.

One of the reasons I love this meal, other than wanting to eat the delicious sauce by the spoonfuls, is that it's authentic Mexican food. The first time I made it, the flavors tasted so exotic but warming, unfamiliar but pleasing at the same time. I learned about it in one of the several Rick Bayless cookbooks I own and love. Chef Bayless has a style that is very easy to read, and in his cookbooks he speaks fondly of each dish before sharing the recipe, so it makes you really want to try everything he has to offer.

Even when I take the long version to make this, excepting the time it takes to make my own chicken stock, the meal never takes more than 90 minutes to prepare, and probably less. The short version takes about 30 minutes, and doesn't taste substantially different, so feel free to go that route if you prefer.

Well, at least for the pipián. You really need to take the time to make your own stock for the rice. It makes all the difference. Here's how.

Chicken Stock
Buy a whole chicken, sprinkle generously with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and roast it in the oven. I usually go about 60-90 minutes at 400˚. After removing all the edible chicken, throw all the remaining bones, skin, etc. (no liver) into a stockpot with water to cover. Simmer about 3 hours. I don't even add carrots, onions, herbs, or any extras to the stock unless I'm making a soup-specific stock I want to take extra care with. Strain. Reduce if you have way too much...6 to 8 cups should be about right.

Okay, now that we've cleared that up, let's talk rice. The beauty of this rice is that it just has a few ingredients, and when you have an item with just a few ingredients, it can be really, really good. If each ingredient is treated properly and has an important role in the dish, it's wonderful. Like crème anglaise. Or this rice. The onion is sweet, but the garlic sweeter, and smooth and nutty, complementing the roasted chicken stock and the mellow onion. How often would you expect to receive praise on white rice? Yet guests inevitably tell me how good it is. And it's really so very easy to make. Rice like this is also a nice side dish with anything that requires a good deal of attention in its final stages, since it's low-maintenance. You'll need 5-10 minutes of attention at the beginning to prep and sauté, but then a timer should take care of the rest of the work.

One last note, which I'm hoping will work out well and make me just so terribly excited. I'm going to start adding a link before each recipe that will take you to a read-only file on google docs where you will find a printable version of the recipe I've posted. This will make my life so much easier, since I'm always copying and pasting my own recipes into temporary documents, and some of you have either done the same or hit "Print Selection". In any case, this should be a bonus. I'd prefer to have a pdf available for download from the post, but blogger doesn't have the option to upload files other than pictures.

Print the following recipe from my Google docs page here.

Pipián Verde
adapted from Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless

1 1/2 c. (6 oz.) hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2-3 serranos, stemmed
3 cloves garlic
15 large sprigs cilantro
4 Romaine leaves, torn up a bit
2 large radish leaves, torn
4 c. chicken stock
prepared chicken, either sautéed breasts or roast chicken
olive oil
Kosher salt

Set a skillet over medium heat. Once it is quite warm, coat the bottom with about 2 T. olive oil. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir to coat them evenly. Sprinkle in some salt. Cook, stirring or flipping, for about 5 minutes, until most of the seeds have popped and look rounder and toasty. Don't burn them. Remove to a plate to cool slightly.

To a blender, add the onion, serranos, garlic, cilantro, Romaine, radish leaves, and 1 1/2 c. chicken stock. Blend until smooth. Add the toasted pumpkin seeds, saving about 2 T. for garnish, and blend again until smooth, adding an additional 1/2 c. of stock if necessary.

Heat 2 T. oil in a medium-large or large saucepan over medium heat. When it's hot, add the pumpkin seed purée all at once and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the remaining stock and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for about 20 minutes. Season with salt, then return it to the blender in about 3 batches, covering the blender loosely with plastic wrap only (to prevent explosions and burns), and purée again. Add to prepared chicken and warm together before serving.

Leftover sauce is great for cheese enchiladas. Warm corn tortillas filled with monterey jack, rolled, sauced, and heated.

To view a printable version of the following recipe, click here.

Mexican White Rice

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 T. olive oil
2 c. medium-grain rice
3 1/2 c. rich chicken stock
Kosher salt

In a medium-large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two. Add the rice and cook, stirring about 3 minutes, until some of the kernels are opaque. Add the chicken stock. Season with salt until the broth is pleasantly salty - not too much, but at the upper edge, as it will be salting the rice, too. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer (I put mine just past the 2 on a scale of 1-10). Set the timer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, but do not lift the lid yet. Let rest 5 minutes. Remove the lid and turn out into a bowl. Serve.


Heidi said...

This looks like something even I could do! Yum. I don't think I have had anything like the sauce before. I am anxious to try it. :) I'll let you know how it turns out.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

It's nice to know there's someone besides myself who still makes their own chicken stock, cool.

I've got a quickie for pumpkin seeds: spread em on a baking tray, drizzle with soy sauce, bake for 5 mins and then snack on them throughout the day (if they last that long).

Rachel said...

That pumpkin seed snack sounds delicious! We'll have to try that soon. Thanks!

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

oops; shoulda been bake for 15 mins... basically once the soy sauce is gone and they are all crispy like.

Anonymous said...

I would really like to try this, but I don't know where I can find the pepitas. Could you tell me at what kind of store you get yours?

Thanks a lot!

Rachel said...

Alex, you should be able to find the pepitas in smallish bags in the Mexican food section of the grocery store, the bulk section of some stores (they're used a lot in granola, so health food stores or regular large bulk sections), or at a Latino market. Good luck!