Friday, April 30, 2010

Arroz Poblano - A "Cinco de Mayo" Recipe

Civil War reenactments reminds me a lot of "Cinco de Mayo". Why? Well, both commemorate battles. While some participate with great fervor others couldn't really care less. In the Mexican state of Puebla the celebration is relevant, since that was the location for the memorable battle the holiday commemorates. It was an important turning point in Mexico's history, a Mexican Gettysburg of sorts. South of the border this holiday is known as La Conmemoración de la Batalla de Puebla and it is really a minor holiday. The name doesn't necessarily rolls of the tongue, does it? Maybe that is the reason "Cinco de Mayo" (the date of the battle) has become the popular name for this holiday.

There are many other reasons why "Cinco de Mayo" is more popular in the United States than in Mexico. One of the reasons was the promotion of this holiday by South West authorities after the Mexican Cession of 1848. It was a way to "boost" the moral of the Mexican population now living in US territory but it was also a way of steering new citizens away from any nationalistic sentiment associated with Mexican independence, celebrated the 16th of September. To this day some folks in the South West still get nervous any time a Mexican flag is waved in US territory. The State and city of Puebla however, are more interesting than just one battle.

Puebla has amazing gastronomy, the mixture of Indigenous and European influences. The culinary delights of the city of Puebla are far from tacky "Mexican" restaurants, frat boys wearing sombreros and clever marketing inviting people to drink. In honor of this city I present you Arroz Poblano, a classic recipe from Puebla. The roasted Poblanos give this rice a nice bite that is actually quite tolerable, even by those not fond of spicy foods. Traditionally prepared with sour cream, cheese and chicken stock, this version of Arroz Poblano uses no animal products. It is by no means any less delicious. To prepare it, you'll need the following ingredients:

  • One cup of long grain rice
  • Two cups of vegetable broth
  • One fresh ear of corn
  • One roasted poblano chile, prepared as you would for rajas con papas
  • One green onion or scallion, including the green part
  • A tablespoon of roasted garlic
  • A bunch or cilantro
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional garnish
  • A teaspoon of Better than Sour Cream by Tofutti
  • A few drops of lemon
  • Chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Extra poblano slivers and corn kernels

Start by roasting and slivering a Poblano pepper as instructed in the recipe rajas con papas. De grain the corn using a sharp knife. Place a cutting board under the corn to catch all the kernels and save for later. Using a knife, scrape the corn husk in a sauce pan as shown in the picture.

Boil the corn husk and corn scrapings, together with the onion, cilantro, broth and half of the roasted pepper. Boil for about 10 minutes until everything is soft.

Remove the corn husk and discard. Puree everything else in a blender. If necessary add more liquid in order to obtain two cups of broth. Strain the flavored broth and save for later, try to keep it warm.

Fry the rice in the olive oil at low heat. Use a large sauce pan that has a good, tight fitting lid. Stir the rice continuously until it starts turning a nice golden brown. Pay attention the the way the rice smells, before it is done it will start to smell nice and toasty - but don't over fry it or it will turn bitter. Turn the heat off and let the rice cool a little bit. Add a tablespoon of roasted garlic.

If your flavoring broth is cold, heat it up. Add two cups of the warm broth to the sauce pan. Stir in the pepper slivers and the corn, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat back up until everything starts to bubble. Don't stir too much once you add liquid, or the rice will break. Add a spring of cilantro and cover. Turn the heat down. Simmer for twenty minutes using a very gentle flame. Make sure you don't lift the lid or you'll let the steam escape and your rice will be chewy.

After twenty minutes check to see if the rice is done. Take a spoon full of rice from the very top of the sauce pan and check if the grains are soft. If the rice is still hard add a bit more liquid, cover, and steam for another 5 more minutes. I the rice is done you can fluff it with a fork, but don't stir it too much or it will get mushy.

Before serving you can add a bit of sour cream and cheese. This recipe uses no animal products, so I use a bit of Better than Sour Cream by Tofutti that has been thinned a bit with a few drops of lemon juice.
Serve your rice and garnish it with a little bit of chopped cilantro or parsley, and extra peppers and corn if you wish. Enjoy! Feliz Conmemoración de la Batalla de Puebla!

The illustrations at the beginning of the recipe are from a painting titled "La Venta" by Primitivo Miranda. Via the Women of the Independence and Revolutionary Wars of Mexico.

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