For about nine months I’ve been toying with the idea of finally buying a Mexican cookbook. It had seemed like a glaring omission in my ever growing collection, which at this point includes Jamaican, Irish, Swedish, and even Trinidadian cuisines. Heck, I even have a hilarious cookbook titled “A Passion for Mushrooms,” which I may have purchased at a library sale based on the name alone. The point is this: I needed a Mexican cookbook, and who better to turn to than Rick Bayless, the preeminent American master of Mexican cuisine?
I originally was going to snatch up Bayless’s seminal book, Authentic Mexican, but then after reading Serious Eats rave about his simpler Mexican Everyday, I had a change of heart. Turns out Mexican Everyday had been penned with healthy eating in mind, and as some of you may know, that’s been my mission for 2013. And so while I’m not often a fan of the “fast and easy” cookbooks, I decided to go this route anyway (after all, Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking rocks my world, and that’s of the same ilk).
For my first attempt at a recipe from Mexican Everyday, I opted for Pollo Pulquero, or “Slow-Cooked Chicken with Tomatillos, Potatoes, Jalapeños and Fresh Herbs.” It’s a very simple dish requiring only a handful of ingredients, and according to various other bloggers across the interwebs, it’s an out-of-the-park winner. Naturally, I was intrigued. Would this recipe live up to the hype? And would Pollo Pulquero prove to finally be the first dish to come out of my slow cooker that’s truly amazing? Answers after the jump…
The fun begins as I literally dust off my slow cooker. Lisa Timmons is on camera. She previously caught me in a bizarre, pseudo T-Rex stance.
Cheesing out with the new cookbook.
Carefully double checking the directions in my go-to reading pose.
Time to get serious. It’s onion peelin’ time.
My expert onion rounds.
The onions go in first. The recipe then calls for a sprinkle of salt. It’s the only time the salt is called for. This will be important later*.
Meanwhile, I’m crying.
On to the potatoes. Rick says we can use either red-skin or Yukon potatoes. Why not both? WHY NOT BOTH???
Into the slow cooker go the potatoes. Now would be a good time to imagine “Let The River Run” playing.
Lisa and I are clearly having an amazing time.
A great moment in potato layering.
Next up: a layer of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
Time for a cup of cilantro. I may have gone slightly overboard.
If you don’t have “Let The River Run” in your head by now, you are made of stone.
A layer of tomatillos enters the mix next. So exciting.
Our layers are nearly complete…
Finally some pickled jalapenos and their juices. I later chopped up the jalapeno slices for better integration.
LOCKED AND LOADED. Time for six hours on high.
Um, try to start this process at around noon, not 4:35.
Six hours later…
What concoction has this slow cooker prepared for me??
Well, I wouldn’t say this is the most photogenic dish of all time…
Into the serving dish goes the stew. It smells great.
Some simple cilantro garnish makes this dish presentable. And now the tasting…
Welllll…. not the most amazing thing to come out of my kitchen. Here’s the simple truth: the chicken was on the dry side (not totally, but definitely in the realm) and the entire thing was vastly under-seasoned. Specifically, this is a dish that requires more salt. Given the potatoes and the chicken involved, a light sprinkling simply will not do. If I were to make this again, I would salt each layer and perhaps cook for seven hours on low instead of six on high.
The good news is that this dish wasn’t a total lost cause. I added salt to my serving, and I’m happy to say this caused the flavors to “pop” way more. In fact, I would say the dish ultimately wound up very good, especially by night two. Did it live up to the hype that other bloggers had created? No. It did not. But I may give it a second go with more aggressive seasoning and see if that’s what catapults this dish into amazing territory.
As for the other recipes in the book, stay tuned. I plan to dive in aggressively!
*I am an idiot. The recipe calls for salt on every layer, which would have made ALL the difference. User error!