Friday, September 01, 2006

No Poblano...Mole please!

Sources of inspiration come in many shapes and sizes and from all directions. I try and stay awake to the fleeting moment when they pass through- and run, skip and tumble with each new trajectory I am steered in. This week’s creative prompting came in the form of pickled raisins and an invitation to take part in an al fresco summer celebration. Ivonne over at Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis at La Mia Cucina are hosting an event open to all food bloggers. The only rule of engagement is to post about a summer dish that showcases at least one fresh ingredient by September 5th. Now this is a kind of party that I can happily attend. After all, I am the sort of person that is most content when standing next to the buffet table deciding upon the best strategy for consuming the maximum amount of food with the most sustained enjoyment over time. It is a fine tuned equation which takes into account the ratio of the most appetizing dishes to that-which-is-available and the rather nebulous amount of filler that needs to be consumed before moving onto the most delicious (or anticipation turned to satisfaction ratio). If memory serves me correctly, the height of my party attending career was at sixteen when many friends were passing out invitations to their catered confirmation parties. Possessing minimal culinary standards and presented with a long table lined with chafing plates full of mediocre food was my adolescent idea of nirvana. Having finally graduated to a more worldly palate and now in the presence of a fine team of skilled food lovers, I’d say I am long overdo for a spread of summer delights. Although not typically a party attendee, I heartily count myself in.

Back to pickled raisins and a lingering theme of incongruity deluxe. This recipe jumped out at me some time ago whilst dreaming nostalgically about the California produce abundantly splashed upon the pages of
Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin. The short introduction to the unusual condiment described an obsessed man at the restaurant who would mill about the kitchen sticking this-n-that into vats of vinegar; even to my horror and delight, raisins. While once suspicious of raisins, I have grown to respect this past-due fruit. And do much better when thinking of this dried grape as some kind of essence of jam. My issues with this dehydrated fruit stem primarily from childhood unwanted boxes of wizened chewy bits in the bottom of my Halloween sack. Many times my heart would rise upon biting into a “chocolate chip” cookie only to plummet over unfortunate mistaken chip identity. In my little world, raisins equaled disappointment. Over the years, I have cross-trained these potent tidbits over to the savory department with great success. Now it has become one of my trademark tricks to add a bit of sweet complexity to dishes that need an extra boost of something. I don’t mind admitting that I am busy enfolding raisins, minced or whole into a plethora of things bubbling in my kitchen. Pickled raisins are to my way of thinking, distilled chutney free from distraction: sweet, fiery, bracing and brined. The dish that I am thinking about will be built around this assertive jumping point.

Enter in stage left, cool damp weather forecasting early fall. Without a hitch, I am passing over the bright sunny produce of summer, the bursting berries, the succulent melons, and the joyous rapture of romaine. Instead I’m eyeing the chile peppers, verdant ancient vegetable at the local grocery store. It seems obvious that earthy roasted chiles might be just the pairing alongside the sweet-sour condiment and just like that I have the cursory sketch for my dish. I have a taste for a little
Scoville heat
tossed in with the mosaic Southwest colors of flavor: chiles, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, corn, tomatoes and coriander. Considering what I would make if I had access to all things summer, I would draw to me a bouquet of Tang orange zucchini blossoms to fill with creamy goat cheese and ricotta. Without a petal in sight however, delicate flowers of the squash are swapped out for the emerald silk purses of Poblano and the fun begins.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers;
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Peter Piper’s Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Pickled Raisin-Corn Salsa and Chile Mole Drizzle
This is essentially a kit of parts, each bit simple to execute. Much of the components can be done ahead in little pockets of time. I must confess that these amounts are approximations; I was eyeballing the amounts to taste. Also at the point the photo was taken, the salsa wasn’t made yet and the cocoa was never added to the drizzle. It sounds completely high falutin’ and pretentious I admit, but I couldn’t resist. It is not a crucial player for this dish, mainly eye candy. Speaking of which, if yours are especially keen you may notice that the coating on the chiles is intensely yellow and thick. I made a good guess to use cornmeal as a dry coat, but it was far too coarse and heavy. Good flavor but rather detracting from the overall composition.

Ingredients:
Stuffed Chiles
6 Poblano chiles, roasted, skinned and seeded
1 ½ C Ricotta cheese
8 oz Mild goat cheese
Good handful of roasted Pumpkin seeds, ground
Garlic Clove, chopped finely
3 Tblsp chopped Cilantro
Egg
Panko crumbs

Pickled Raisin-Corn Salsa
2 tsp Yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp Coriander seeds
½ C Sugar
3 Tblsp Apple cider vinegar
1 Chile de árbol, crumbled
1 Bay leaf
1/3 lb Golden raisins
1 tsp Thyme leaves
1 tsp Salt
2 C Corn kernels, cut from the cooked cob
¾ C Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Shallot chopped finely
3 Tblsp chopped Cilantro

Chile Mole Drizzle
1 bag of Dried New Mexico Chiles (approx. 6)
1/2 tsp of Oregano
½ C Chicken stock
½ tsp Dagoba Xocolatl Unsweetened Cocoa
Salt
Lard

Directions: Roast your chiles over a low flame until blackened all over. Throw them into a paper bag and shut to allow the steam to facilitate peeling. When cool, remove slippery black skin, pull off stems and deseed trying hard not to split them. Put aside. For the pickled raisins, dry roast coriander seeds until fragrant. Lightly crush or grind your method of choice. Place into a non reactive pot with a cup of water. Dry roast the mustard seeds until they just begin to pop. Put them into the water along with the sugar, vinegar, chile, bay leaf, raisins, thyme and salt and bring to a boil. Once the mixture comes up to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 7 minutes. Liquid will reduce to about half. Cool and put aside. To finish the salsa, in a medium bowl, mix corn, tomatoes, shallots, cilantro and about 2 heaping spoonfuls of the pickled raisins. Toss with about 1 tablespoon of the reserved pickled raisin juice, a splash of cider vinegar and a healthy drizzle of grape seed oil. Salt and pepper to taste and put salsa aside. Meanwhile place the dried chiles in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow them to soften, at least half an hour. Stem and deseed them and throw into a blender with some of the remaining water, oregano and salt. Keep blending adding the chicken stock and/or more water until you get a thin sauce. Blend in the cocoa, add more or less to taste. At this point, you can strain the entire mixture to catch all the slivers of chile skin and make a more refined sauce. Heat up a little lard into a large shallow pan on medium high flame, and pour the drizzle in to reduce and bring the flavors together. Pour the sauce into a bowl, cool and put aside. At this point, you are ready to make the stuffing. It is as simple as mixing the ricotta, goat cheese, ground pumpkin seeds, garlic, cilantro and salt to taste. I did add a bit of grated lemon zest as well, but was not so overwhelmingly impressed with it. Spoon a few spoonfuls of the cheese mixture into each Poblano, then lightly dredge each in flour, then dip into a lightly beaten egg, then roll onto a plate of Panko crumbs. Take a well seasoned shallow pan and heat up to medium high. Pour in some oil or lard if you happen to have it and then carefully place each chile inside. Fry until golden and then turn over to brown the other side. To present, splash the plate with the mole drizzle, place one stuffed chile on its best side and accompany with the salsa.

12 comments:

jbird said...

You, my dear, crack me up!!! You need to be published! The story about mistaken raisin/chochip identification really was hysterical.
Loved the food strategy advice at the buffet table, next time I will have to weigh those critical factors of availibilty, quantity and tastiness prior to placing on plate. Reminded me of your Mary Jane Halloween story! Another great post! I was eagerly awaiting the new post,seemed like it was alittle longer in coming, this one. ;-) I think you are givng Marcel a run for his money w/ your food, life, philosophy musings. Va Bene

Lis said...

I have to agree with jbird.. I laughed out loud when reading about your mistaken raisin identification!

The dish you've created for the festa looks wonderful! Thank you so much for joining us!

It's truly a treat for me to have discovered your blog! I look equally forward to reading through your archives and your future posts =)

Ivonne said...

My dear Callipygia,

I could sit at the computer and read your writing all day long! You're brilliant.

I recently purchased the Goin cookbook and have high hopes for it. And you've reinforced that.

Your dish is spectacular. Thank you so much for coming to the festa!

Callipygia said...

jbird-it is fun to see how our tastes and variable criterias change over time. I think my food strategies may need to be reworked!

lis- thank you for stopping by and reading, I am new to the foodblog world so it is wonderful to meet other foodbloggers.

ivonne-it'll be fun to see what you pick to make in Goin's book, we seem to have similar taste

miragee said...

Your love for buffet reminds me of my past crazy experiences. I also felt great ecstasy when going to all-you-can-eat restaurants when I was younger. Now I think I should be more self-disciplined since my metabolism does not work so fast as before...

The chile pic is just lovely!

Callipygia said...

miragree- as we age we just become more strategic in our selections!

Kalyn said...

Sounds very yummy. Creative too.

Bruno said...

I love Mexican food... the flavor combination sounds delish! Love your drawings too. They add a nice touch to your site.

Bruno

Callipygia said...

kalyn- Thanks and enjoy!
Bruno- Mexican food is so soulful and earthy, hard to resist.

woof said...

Raisins equals disappointment? That candy replacement is generally a replacement. Except for the case when melded into a tasty batch of yak pap. Then it would be as they say ....

woof said...

Aww crud. Damn these fast fingers a typing ... that line should've read "That candy replacement is generally a disappointment". Teach me to chew gum and walk at the same *thud*!

Callipygia said...

maybe I should have written "raisins equals yak pap"