Friday, March 4, 2011

Chico Stew

Photo by Sergio Salvador
www.salvadorphoto.com
This stew is honestly one of the best things I've ever eaten – I cannot recommend this recipe enough!

Chicos are dried kernels of sweet corn, traditionally roasted in an horno. Once rehydrated, they taste just like the sweetest roasted summer corn you've ever had, intensified. This is serious New Mexican food, completely obscure outside of the state, and even many who grew up here have never tried them. I've never seen them in a restaurant, but they are worth seeking out. They're actually listed on the U.S. Ark of Taste, a catalog of outstandingly delicious traditional foods in danger of extinction.

This weekend (the first Sunday of the month) is your chance to buy some chicos at the Corrales winter farmers' market. I got mine from Clarabelle and Salomon, who come all the way from Tijeras, and they were exceptionally good. You can also find them at a few grocery stores, produced by Casados Farms in San Juan Pueblo.

The recipe is based on one from the PNM cookbook, Cocinas de New Mexico, but I modified it so I could just cook the chicos in a crockpot all day. I used a little bit of local, organic pork from Los Poblanos Organics – the sweet flavor of pork really complements the sweet corn. And I used dried whole green chile pods instead of red. I got a big sack of them from Chile Konnection last year, and I've been trying to find more uses for them. You don't see them as often as red, and you almost never see a recipe using them. They're not quite the same as fresh green, but they add a great green chile flavor in stews.

2 cups chicos
10 cups cold water
2 T. oil
1/2 pound pork, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t. salt
1/2 t. dried oregano
4-5 dried green or red chiles, crumbled

Soak chicos in cold water overnight, then cook (with the water) in a crockpot all day on low. If you prefer, you can just simmer them on the stove for about 3 hours after soaking. Heat the oil on medium flame, and sear the pork. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent. Add the salt, oregano, chiles, and the chicos with all their water. Cook 20 minutes (or longer, as desired) to blend the flavors and rehydrate the chiles. Serves 4-6 as a main dish.
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