Typical! I finally get some time to blog and my stupid camera goes psycho on me! I had a post for last Friday but I’ll have to publish its follow up first, while I battle with the useless customer helpline for my camera.
Over the last academic year, my cookbooks have become full of little yellow post-it notes, urging me to try various things when I had a free moment. A recipe from one of my bargain books was top of my list: drunken chicken with Tequila and plaintains.
As much as I moan about Dalston with it’s horribly busy high street, drunken,noisy nightlife and the general lack of most useful things to buy, it is very good for finding cheap fruit and veg. There have been occasions, while heading home along the walkway that runs along our block, when I’ve turned to look at the Kingsland Road and noticed how much it reminds me of a city street in Sri Lanka. The shops include small eateries and little local barber shops where everyone knows each other. There’s also a feel of it being run down with several buildings that are graffitied and seem to have their shutters down permanently, but most stores here are grocery shops with vast arrays of fruit and veg on display, including some of the greenest potatoes I’ve ever seen and also the most wrinkly peppers. If it weren’t for the slightly out of place gastropub on the corner, I might forget that I were in England.
As well as general fruit and veg, Dalston is particularly good for Carribean ingredients. The liittle market stalls on Ridley Road offer a range of interesting produce that I intend to explore more thoroughly over the weeks before I move. This was useful when I suddenly decided that tequila chicken was on the menu for that evening and I needed a plaintain in a hurry. However, I suggest that, unlike me, you don’t wait until 7pm before you go shopping there. With most of the little stalls shut, the deserted market had a dilapidated and slightly sinister feel to it. I was glad that I’d decided to do this in the summer months while it was still light in the evening.
Only one tiny little stall was open. They had plenty of ripe plaintains, just what I was looking for, and a fair few other things I was curious about, including a box full of some kind of shelled creature that I was too cautious to invesigate. The guy running the stall was rather bemused when I just tried to order one plaintain though, and kept filling up the bag with more fruit. Ah, well, it cost 50p, and I suppose I can make myself eat sweet fried plaintain if really necessary.
Other than the plaintain, the ingredients for this meal are easy to find and the chicken is relatively simple to prepare. The accompaniment of green rice was a tad more time consuming than I imagined, but well worth it in the end.
If you’re going to make this, please note the rice is HOT! Goon didn’t know this, despite watching me puree the green chilli before adding it to the rice. His natural instinct when confronted with a hot dish is to cool his palate with starch. Sadly for him, this time it was the chicken that was sweet and soothing while the rice was fotified with jalapeno. It took him five quickly scoffed mouthfulls before he realised what was going on.
The only real problem with this meal is that it included Tequila. I wasn’t expecting it but, through cooking this, I’ve discovered that I like this strange Mexican spirit. A lot. Possibly more than gin which is really saying something. I have consumed almost a bottle fairly quickly in the form of frozen margaritas and now I’ve nearly run out .
More importantly, I couldn’t get that irritating song by Terrorvision out of my head while I was cooking.
Hmm…. I may need an excuse to buy another bottle… I’m thinking salmon cured in tequila with lime and coriander? Perhaps next week…..
Sweet-Sour Tequila Chicken with Green Rice (adapted from Mexican Cooking by Jane Milton, feeds two big eaters generously)
For the chicken….
- small handful dried raisins
- around 100ml dry sherry
- vegetable oil for frying
- Meat from 6 boneless chicken thighs ( I left these as 6 separate chunks)
- plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper- enough to lightly coat the chicken thighs
- 1 small onion, finely sliced into half rings
- 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ripe plaintain
- A handful of slivered almonds
- 2 small granny smith apples
- 200ml chicken stock
- 200-250ml tequila
- Put the raisins in a mug and pour over the sherry. Leave to soak for around 20 minutes.
- In the mean time, coat the chicken in the seasoned flour and brown over a high heat. Drain and set aside.
- Sweat the onions and garlic together in some vegetable oil until soft.
- While the onion is sweating, peel and core the apples. Chop the apples into small cubes.
- Add the apples and plaintain to the pan.
- Stir and cook for a few minutes.
- Add the raisins, sherry, chicken stock and tequila. Bring to a gentle bubble.
- When the mixture has reduced by around 40%, add the browned chicken thighs. Cover and allow to cook until the chicken thighs are fully cooked.
- Stir in the almonds.
- Adjust seasoning and serve with the green rice.
For the Green Rice……
- 4 handfuls rice
- 1 big handful coriander
- 1 big handful parsley
- 1 big green chilli (jalapeno was recommended)
- 1 green pepper
- 1 small onion/ half a medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 200 ml chicken stock
- Cut the pepper and chilli in half and remove the seeds. Place under a medium grill, skin side up, until the skins are blistered and charred. Remove from the heat.
- Cover the rice with boiling water. Leave to stand for around 20 minutes.
- When the pepper and chilli are cool, peel the skin from them and roughly chop the flesh.
- Process the pepper and chilli with the garlic. Then add the herb leaves and process until you have a smooth paste, adding a little chicken stock if necessary.
- Drain the rice.
- Fry the (now almost cooked) rice and onion together until the rice is golden brown. Add the herb paste and fry for around 5 minutes, allowing the rice to absorb the moisture in the paste.
- Add the chicken stock a little at a tiime (risotto style) and allow it to be absorbed until the rice is cooked.
Serve the chicken garnished with chopped herbs with the green rice and sauce and maybe a green salad if you want to be healthy.
This dish had a real kick to it, which mostly came from the sherry soaked raisins. The tequila imparted an interesting, deep earthiness alongside the sweet-tart flavour of the apples. I was pleased with the flavours in the dish, although I think it definitely needs something texture wise. The sauce is thick and the plaintain soft, giving it a bit of a gloopy feel at times. The firm chicken meat made up for this a little but something with some more bite would have turned this meal from good to fantastic. Any suggestions would be most welcome!
My favourite bit of this meal was the rice. It was flavoursome and had a good chilli kick. I think I may have used a bit too much herb paste though- I think it turned out greener and more moist than it should have. About 25g of each herb woul;d have been sufficient. 1 chilli was certainly sufficient although the recipe suggested 2.