Saturday, January 31, 2015

Spicy Southwestern Veal Chili Mac with Queso Cotija and Roasted Poblano

     Chili Mac!  
     There are as many chili mac variations as there is chili recipes.  Beans or no beans.  The choice of meat.  Ground meat or meaty chunks.  Spicy or mild.  Green chiles or dried red chiles.  Cheese or no cheese.
     Basically, chili mac was created with the idea of feeding a lot of people for a low price.  Adding macaroni to chili will fill a belly up quick.  This is why chili mac is a working man's favorite.  
     Many construction workers and laborers keep chili mac on their weekly dinner menu option list, because this meal is easy to make, especially if canned goods are used.  Not everybody has time to cook a meal from scratch, especially when on the road or when contracted to work out of town at a remote outdoor construction site location.  I have seen construction workers make chili mac in one pan with a can of tomatoes, a can of chili, some ground beef and macaroni noodles.  Even when made with items of convenience, chili mac is an appealing meal, because it is cheap, hearty and it has a bold western flavor.

     Today's chili mac recipe has a bold southwestern desert flavor that is in the medium spicy hot Scoville range.  Like any chile pepper recipe, the spicy heat can be adjusted by selecting milder or hotter chile peppers.  
     For a mild flavor, chile ancho, chile guajillo, mild New Mexico chiles and Spanish Paprika are good choices.  These kind of peppers are the base southwestern chile pepper flavor in most southwestern recipes.  If a spicy hot chili mac hits the spot, then adding some chile arbol, chile pequin, chile morita, chipotle or habanero peppers to the mixture will crank up the level of spicy heat.

     Serving chili mac in a restaurant is not unheard of.  Old fashioned truck stop diner restaurants and Route 66 style diners often offer simple home style food specials of the day, like chili mac.  The better southwestern diners dress up the presentation of special du jour items, in order to boost customer satisfaction.  Garnishing a good bowl of chili mac with cilantro, crumbled Mexican cotija cheese and roasted poblano strips does boost the appeal and it makes the chili mac worthy of being served in a fancy modern diner.  

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large dinner portion or 2 medium size lunch portions of chili mac!   

     Chile Preparation:
     This chili mac is medium spicy hot.  The hot spicy flavor can be adjusted by varying the amount of chilie morita (smoked red Chihuahua Red Jalapeno) and chile arbol.  The rest of the chiles are very mild.    
     Step 1:  Soak these dried chile peppers in water over night in a refrigerator:
     - 1 guajillo chile
     - 1 chile morita
     - 1 ancho chile
     - 3 to 4 chile arbol
     Step 2:  Remove the peppers from the soaking liquid.
     Slice each of the reconstituted chile peppers in half lengthwise. 
     Remove the stems.
     Rinse the seeds out of the split chiles with cold running water.
     Step 3:  Set the soaked and seeded chile peppers on a cutting board.
     Chop the chile mixture and set it aside.

     Roasted Poblano Pepper:
     Either roast 1 whole chile poblano over an open flame or in an oven, till the skin turns brownish black.
     Allow the chile to cool to room temperature. 
     Split the roasted poblano in half and remove the stem.
     Rinse the seeds and black skin off of the chile poblano.
     Cut the roasted poblano into long strips.
     Set the roasted poblano strips aside.      
     Spicy Southwestern Veal Chili Mac:
     Chili Mac is usually made in a short amount of time and the chili does not need to simmer all day.  Chili Mac can be made in one pan, but it does turn out better if the macaroni is cooked separately.  The chili mac sauce should not be too thick before adding the noodles, because the macaroni will soak up some of the liquid in the pan as it simmers.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 8 ounces of ground veal.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1 finely chopped seeded small green jalapeño pepper.
     Stir the ground veal as it cooks and break up any clumps into tiny pieces.
     Sauté till the ground veal becomes fully cooked and lightly browned.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle a tiny amount of maza harina (Nixtamal Corn Flour) on the excess grease in the pan while stirring.  The maza harina will combine with the grease to form a rustic pan roux.  (About 2 to 3 teaspoons is plenty.)
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 cups beef broth.
     Add 1 cup of canned diced tomato and a proportion of the juices.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped red bell pepper.
     Add the reserved chopped soaked and seeded chile peppers.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of Mexican oregano.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced epazote.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of achiote paste.
     Step 4:  Stir the chili and bring it to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the chili for 45 minutes to one hour.
     Stir the chili occasionally as the liquid reduces to a thin sauce consistency.  Add water if the chile becomes too thick.
     Step 6:  Cook 1 portion of macaroni pasta in salted boiling water over high heat.
     When the pasta becomes al dente, drain off the water.
     Step 7:  Add the macaroni to the chili mixture in the pan.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Simmer the chili mac for 10 minutes before serving.  The sauce should be thin and it should be able cling to the macaroni. 
     Keep the chili mac warm over very low heat.
     Spicy Southwestern Veal Chili Mac with Queso Cotija and Roasted Poblano: 
     Place a generous portion of the Spicy Southwestern Veal Chili Mac in a shallow stew bowl or pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of crumbled queso cotija over the chili mac.
     Place the roasted poblano strips on the center of the chili mac.
     Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

     Chile pepper food is not only spicy tasting.  Chile peppers are highly nutritious and they offer many health benefits.  A big bowl of Spicy Southwestern Veal Chili Mac with Queso Cotija and Roasted Poblano is some spicy feel good food!

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