Paki Tacos

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I absolutely love Latin culture. I love the language, the food, the music, the dancing. When I met Shan, I was pretty much immersed. I was going salsa dancing every weekend, and I was eating arroz con gandules instead of biryani. After we got married, I started cooking mostly Pakistani and Indian food, but I will never stop cooking Latin food; it’s such a nice reminder of that time in my life and the people that are still dear friends, even though we don’t see each other as much anymore.

Tonight I made a dish that’s a fusion of the foods that Shan and I both love. This dish is my past and my future on one plate.

Instead of pulled pork (we don’t eat pork!) this is made with pulled chicken thighs, with a spicy tomato sauce flavored with both South Asian spices and smoky chipotle pepper, and just a little brown sugar. With gingery basmati rice, a fresh, sweet corn relish, and delicate pickled shallots (I put pickled shallots on everything), this is a delightful mix of flavors and textures.

Shan approved; he ate four and gave them their name – Paki Tacos.

Paki Tacos

For pickled shallots
Combine 2 sliced shallots, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tsp honey, and a couple pinches of salt in a coffee cup and let pickle while you cook the rest.

For chicken + tomato sauce
4 chicken thighs
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/3 c sherry (white wine, chicken broth, or water also fine)
1 tbsp butter
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, garam masala
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large carrot, chopped
2 chipotle peppers (and a tbsp or so of the adobo sauce)
1 tsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil on high while you salt and pepper chicken thighs. Brown chicken thighs on both sides, covered so they start to cook through. Check for doneness, you may need to add a splash of water and cover so they cook through the rest of the way. When they are cooked, let water evaporate and remove chicken to a plate to cool.

Deglaze pan with sherry, reduce by at least half, then add butter, cinnamon, and cloves and reduce heat to just above medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent. Add garlic and ground spices and cook, stirring, for several minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and about a cup of water, cover and crank the heat back up. Cook for 10 minutes or so, uncover and reduce if it’s too liquidy (you want it not too dry, but thick), remove from heat, and stir in brown sugar.

While the sauce cools, shred chicken thighs with two forks. Transfer sauce to a food processor, puree, then combine chicken and sauce in the pot and gently warm through.

For corn relish
2 ears white corn
small handful cilantro
1 lime (zest of all, juice of half)
2 tbsp yogurt
salt & pepper

Boil corn in pot of generously salted water. Drain and cool. Finely chop cilantro and combine with lime zest, lime juice and yogurt. Cut the corn off the cob and gently stir with yogurt mixture.

For gingery basmati rice
Rinse and soak 1 c rice (15 min is fine). Boil and salt 2 c water, grating in 1/2 inch ginger. Add rice, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until done, about 15 to 20 minutes.

For tacos
Assemble all of the above in warm corn tortillas and enjoy.

Posole with Kale

I was introduced to posole, a Mexican soup made with hominy, years ago by my then roommate Denise. She had been previously married to a Mexican, and so knew how to cook all kinds of yummy things. Our posole adventure was a full day ordeal, ending in a feast for lots of people. We roasted a pork shoulder which we later broke up into the soup, and used two giant 24 ounce cans of posole. We cooked in a tamalero – an enormous pot, which most people use for steaming tamales but crazy ladies use for making copious amounts of soup. The pot spanned two eyes of the stove and needed to be washed in the bathtub.

I still make posole from time to time, in amounts meant for a family instead of the Mexican army. Posole is a fun and festive soup because you can serve the basic soup with lots of garnishes and everyone can dress theirs up as they like. The only constants needed are the hominy, onions, broth, and oregano – and the rest is up to your imagination. I love adding greens to soups (they look so pretty besides being really good for you), so this time I added kale. The result was a hearty and nourishing bowl.

Posole with Kale

olive oil
1 onion, sliced
salt/pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chicken breast, cut crossways then into thin strips
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 4 ounce can green chillis
1 12 ounce can white hominy
8-10 cups broth (and more water as needed)
juice of half a lime
1 bunch kale, washed, trimmed, stalks cut out then cut into strips
garnishes: sliced lime, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, tostadas, crumbled queso fresco, etc etc etc

Heat olive oil over medium high heat, then add onion, salt and pepper. Cook until onion begins to turn translucent, then add garlic, chicken, oregano, paprika and cumin. Cook for a few minutes until chicken is cooked, then add chillis, hominy, and broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze in lime juice, and add kale, simmering for a couple more minutes. Serve with garnishes.