Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Introduction To Ancho

Good evening everyone. Tonight, I’m trying to recreate one of our favorite recipes from one of our favorite places to eat. Chipotle Mexican Grill is a fantastic burrito/taco establishment that uses fresh ingredients and focuses on making good food out of healthy, natural products. They have two styles of burrito, steak and chicken that pack an absolutely amazing flavor. Their burritos usually consist of white rice, sour cream, cilantro, black beans, cheese and the meat of your choice, although they can be customized to any ingredients you prefer. Maggie and I usually go for the rice, sour cream, cilantro, cheese and chicken combination.

The true standout of their burritos is the seasoning that their meat has. It walks a fine line between spicy and seasoned – bursting with bits of heat complimented with amazing surrounding flavors. Last week, I stumbled across a recipe to recreate the marinade for Chipotle’s burritos (which we shared on 1/23/12’s Around The Culinary World) and I was intrigued. I set out to try to duplicate the amazing flavor of Chipotle’s burritos – and while I was at it, I decided to try to trim about 300 calories from the dish by changing the burrito to a bowl. Can this tasty Mexican dish be easily duplicated? Let’s find out:

The Recipe: Chipotle’s Chicken Burritos
Original Recipe Found On: Kitchen Daily

What You’ll Need:

For the marinade:
2 Ounces Dried Ancho Chiles*
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Cumin Powder
2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano (Chopped)
6 Cloves Garlic
1/2 Red Onion (Quartered)
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
Chicken of Beef Cuts (2 Chicken breasts were used for our recipe)

For the burrito:
White Rice (Quantity based on the number you’re serving)
Sour Cream (Optional)
Cilantro For Serving (Optional)
Fresh Salsa (Optional)

* You can used dried ancho chiles or ground ancho chile powder. If you opt to use the dried chiles, you will have to soak them in a small bowl of water overnight until they soften. Discard the water and the seeds and then dice the chiles. If you use ground ancho chiles, simply substitute the 2 ounces for about 2 teaspoons of the powder. We’re using the powder for our recipe.

An ancho chile is actually a poblano pepper that has been dried. The green poblano pepper is actually a fairly mild pepper, although each pepper can vary wildly when it comes to heat. (Some are significantly hotter than others, despite being grown in the same patch). Ancho chiles are dried forms of the hotter red poblano pepper. Ancho chiles are midnight black after drying and smell a lot like raisins. Ground ancho chile powder is simply rehydrated ancho chiles ground into an easy to use seasoning. Your local spice store will likely carry both dried and ground ancho chiles.

You’ll need to prepare the marinade the night before you want to make the recipe. To truly have the chicken or beef absorb the flavor, you’ll want it to marinade for at least 2 hours but overnight or even up to 24 hours is preferred.

To make the marinade, place the red onion, garlic, ancho chiles (powder or diced), black pepper, vegetable oil, cilantro and cumin into a small food processor. Pulse the mixture until it is well blended and any large chunks have been removed.

After I had mixed our marinade, I leaned over the bowl and gave it a sniff to see just how intense the ancho chile smell was. At first, I didn’t smell anything, which caused me to assume that the seasoning wasn’t sufficient. I leaned in a little more to verify this and that’s when it hit me. Like a ball of fire, the marinade’s spicy smell shot up my nostrils, down my throat and into my lungs. I know that’s the path it took because I could FEEL the smell burning through my nostrils, down my throat and into my lungs. Yup, that marinade is packing some serious heat! I’m sure glad I didn’t add any more ancho to the mix…

Place your chicken (or beef) in a large bowl or baking dish. Using a rubber spatula spread the marinade across the top and bottom of each chicken breast. Make sure that all sides of the breasts are evenly covered in the seasoning. Tightly cover the pan or bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Once the marinade has had an opportunity to settle in (the longer the better), place 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat and warm the oil until it begins to shimmer. Begin to prepare your rice according to the package instructions at this time as well.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken or steak into ½ inch strips. Try to leave as much of the marinade on the meat as possible while slicing. Place the sliced meat into the skillet and cook for 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Combine the chicken, rice, cilantro and sour cream in a serving bowl and enjoy!

The Results:

I’m always slightly hesitant to try ‘duplicate’ restaurant recipes because most restaurants don’t share EXACTLY what their original recipe is (why would they?). This recipe was no different, the seasoning wasn’t quite the same thing that Chipotle offers - in fact you can certainly tell that SOMETHING is missing.

That being said, this seasoning was no slouch. It doesn't pack much heat (surprisingly) but what little heat is present was nicely offset by the rice/cilantro/sour cream combination. In the end, this recipe helps create a very flavorful meat that goes well with a burrito bowl or even wrapped in a tortilla. If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine or just like things with a little kick of heat, this dish is certainly one to try.

That’s all we have for you this week. We’re back on Monday with another edition of Around The Culinary World. Until Monday,


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