Tuesday, December 14, 2010

margaritas and grilled chicken with smoked chiles & orange

First, and most importantly, the margaritas. After buying Grand Marnier for margaritas for many years, I recently noticed an orange flavored liqueur by Patron on the same shelf and couldn't resist taking it for a spin. I wish I could have done a side by side taste comparison with Grand Marnier,  but since I didn't have any Grand Marnier at home I could only judge by how my usual margarita mix was affected by this newcomer. It seemed to me the Patron Citronge was less syrupy, and I felt I needed more to attain the same level of sweetness as the Grand Marnier. (Keep in mind, I aim to use as little orange liqueur as possible - just enough to temper the lime while still affording a good pucker.) Overall, I think Citronge is a decent, less costly substitute for Grand Marnier and is probably preferable to triple sec.

As far as tequila goes, I have had an opportunity to taste test many across the price spectrum, and I'm astonished by how well Jose Cuervo Tradicional holds its own against much costlier reposados. I don't see any reason to spend more for a cocktail tequila.

While I'm on the subject of cocktails here, I must put in a plug for the wonderful silicone ice cube tray pictured above. We're all aware of the sorry state of ice cubes today right? Those wimpy, refrigerator-dispensed half moons, or worse, the hollow tubes sold commercially. I remember when ice cubes had substance; you plunked them into a drink and you knew you were good to go for a while. Well, lament no more; these trays make huge rocks! The ice cubes are a little tricky to release at first, but once you get the hang of it it's easy. Just one will get you where you wanna go with the finer beverages.

Margaritas for 4:

1 cup tequila
1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 cup Patron Citronge
large pinch kosher salt (or salt rims of glasses)

Mix and imbibe.

Now, onto dinner. Throughout my college years until today, I have much enjoyed a classic Mexican pork offering at Sol Azteca restaurant in Boston called Puerco en Adobo: pork marinated in smoked chiles (chipotles) and orange. I hardly ever eat pork, but I have always ordered it there because the smoky orange treatment is so compelling.

I have tried to recreate the marinade at home, guided by recipes online and various cookbooks, but the results have always disappointed. Most call for fresh citrus juices, which sounds good but were ultimately overwhelmed by the smoke and heat of the chipotles. I needed a punch of orange flavor that could stand up for itself, and I finally found it in frozen orange juice concentrate.

Really, my best approximation of  the marinade at Sol Azteca was the simplest, consisting of canned chipotle chilis, orange juice concentrate and salt.

Once I found a marinade/ sauce I was happy with, I was curious to see if it would work with chicken instead of pork. I marinated chicken paillards (chicken breasts pounded very thinly) in the chipotle mixture, grilled them, and served them atop a bed of smashed  garlicky black beans with a bit of reserved marinade drizzled over the top.

Finally, I garnished with an avocado, pineapple, mango and banana salsa. In the end, I have to say, there was not much resemblance between the original muse and my Mexican/ Caribbean creation, but there was something else goin' on here, and it was good.

Chicken and Marinade/ Sauce:

1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 can orange juice concentrate
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 3/8 of an inch thickness

Combine chipotles, OJ concentrate and salt in blender. Blend well.

Season pounded chicken breasts with salt. Smear both sides of breasts with about 1/2 cup marinade, reserving extra marinade and being careful to not contaminate reserved portion with raw chicken juices.

Cover chicken and marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours if possible.

Smashed Garlicky Black Beans:

2 cans black beans, in their juices
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
fresh ground black pepper & salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in saucepan; simmer slowly for 1 hour until garlic flavor is mellowed and beans are very soft. Mash beans with potato masher until well thickened but chunky.

Fruit Salsa:

1 ripe Hass avocado, cubed
1 mango, cubed
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
1 banana, cubed
juice of 1 lime
fresh cilanto, chopped, to taste
salt to taste

Mix salsa ingredients about an hour before serving time and refrigerate.

Grill chicken paillards over high heat a minute or two per side until done. (If they are properly pounded they cook very quickly.) Serve on a bed of black beans, drizzled with some reserved chipotle sauce, with a dollop of fruit salsa on the side.


Note: If your chicken paillard approaches the shape above, you may seize the opportunity to provide the little ones with a geography lesson: yes, Junior, Africa is indeed a continent.

You will have extra chipotle orange sauce. I sometimes freeze it in an ice cube tray, transfer to a zip lock bag, then add it to anything that could use a sweet & spicy kick. Try it as a glaze for ham or ribs.

You can also use it as you would a sweet barbeque sauce, brushing it over chicken towards the end of cooking time to avoid burning. (In this recipe, since the chicken is pounded thinly it cooks very quickly so the marinade doesn't have time to scorch.)

Recommended ice cube trays:


  1. is that small can of OJ or the big one? I would guess the little one, what is that, 6 oz.? omg, this sounds so good I want to make it right now...that is, the chicken part of this post ;D yummy yummy

  2. Judy - not the smallest can or the big long one - the one in-between! I don't have one here to check the ozs right now. It takes more than you'd expect because the chiles are so hot. T

  3. It makes me so happy to stop in and see what you've been cooking Tina :-) This one looks especially delicious.

  4. Tina, we just had the banana chutney tonight with Indian food that Alice made. Yumm, it was truly delicious and original! We had a blast with you this week, Happy New Year! Love Holly

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