Happy Hour: Choriqueso
Good evening my darlings and welcome once again to the Friday night Happy Hour. While last week I dealt with the ramifications of having the second vaccine shot, this week it was my babydoll’s turn. While mine was a condensed 24 hours of misery, his was less intense but spread out over a couple of days. As a result, he spent the week with little appetite. Now he is feeling better and quite hungry.
For us happy hour is about taking some time together to sit and unwind from the week. Even before 2020 we tended towards quiet Friday nights and went out on Saturday instead. That way we could always recoup from the week. Usually, we take the opportunity to experiment with a new cocktail recipe and try out a delectable little treat.
This week we are giving the alcohol a pass. It doesn’t mean that I am not having a pretty little drink though. This week I poured seltzer water into a stemless champagne flute and added a dash of grenadine. We just got new tanks in for our Soda Stream so there are plenty of festive looking bubbles and the color is fun. It may not be a traditional cocktail, but it is a fun drink to sip nonetheless and quite frankly I can drink almost anything out of these glasses and it feels special.
My babydoll won’t touch them because he is worried that he will knock them over. So he has taken one of my Blackberry Hint waters (the sparkling kind) and poured it into a very chunky looking goblet. I have no idea how or when the goblet got into out cabinets but there it was when he reached for it, and he seems happy with his beverage choice.
We also tweaked the happy hour treat. Technically speaking I believe this is meant to be a shared appetizer, at least when we had a version of this at a restaurant, that is how it was labeled. As an appetizer you need about six people to eat it and after that I would still suggest a light meal.
When I make this Choriqueso I make the full batch and we tend to use it as both happy hour delight and the main meal of the evening. We certainly aren’t eating anything after this. When we do this we typically only eat about half, let it cool and put the other half away. It reheats well in the oven and it does freeze well. It is one of those dishes that I find easier to make in the full batch because of the size of the pan I am cooking it in and the measurements. Plus it is something I know won’t go to waste even if we do end up freezing half. It was also what my babydoll requested for his post pseudo flu hunger pangs. How much will be left over is anyone’s guess. I suspect some might make it to the fridge overnight, but I doubt we will be freezing anything.
Although it seems like a bit much once you get everything together it comes together in a snap. The only thing to remember is that you need to rehydrate your ancho chiles about half an hour or so before you begin cooking. The only extra equipment other than a stove and oven with a broiler that you will need is a blender. It really is the best tool for the job. If you don’t have one, you could try chopping the ancho pepper really finely and then whisking it and the other ingredients in a bowl but you won’t get the same smooth paste. It will still taste fantastic but it won’t be as smooth a paste. A food processor helps for quick cheese shredding, but it is optional.
To rehydrate the dried anchos put the chillies in a glass bowl. Pour boiling water over them and leave them to soak until they are plumped and soft. Drain, remove any seeds and use the chilies as directed.
2 ancho chilies, seeded and rehydrated (see above note for rehydration)
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup water
Half of a medium sized yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp Mexican oregano (if you can’t find Mexican regular oregano will do)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cayenne
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ lbs ground pork
1 lbs Monterey jack cheese shredded
Warm tortillas for serving
- Do all of your prep work first. This is one of those recipes that comes together quickly so dice, shred and measure ahead of time to save yourself some stress. As all the spices go in at once you can just put them all in the same bowl as you measure.
- Put the anchos, vinegar and water into a blender. Blend until smooth then add the onion garlic, salt, and all of your spices (cumin, paprika, oregano, cinnamon and cayenne).
- Again blend to a smooth paste. If it is too thick then add a little water a tablespoon at a time. Don’t make it too liquid though. You want it just loose enough so that everything blends into a homogeneous mix with no straggling chunky bits (think heavy romesco).
- Place a large, broiler safe skillet on the stove.
- Add the vegetable oil to the skillet and turn on medium heat. When it is warm pour the chili mix from the blender into the skillet. Heat for about 1 minute to wake up the spices.
- Then add the ground pork to the skillet. Mix it in with the sauce until the meat is covered.
- Cook the pork (medium heat) about 10 minutes or until no pink is showing, stirring occasionally.
- While the pork cooks, move the oven rack about six inches below the broiler and let the broiler come up to temperature.
- Once the pork is cooked, check the seasonings and adjust the spice level if desired, then layer the shredded Monterey jack cheese over the meat mixture covering it completely.
- Shift the skillet from the stove top to place it under the broiler. Keep it there until the cheese is melted and lightly browned (approximately 2-3 minutes)
- Serve it hot in the pan with the tortillas (we just spoon it onto the tortillas and eat that way, you can, eat it with tortilla chips if you wanted to make it more of a dip than a meal)
A couple helpful hints. If you want to shred cheese in a hurry with your food processor you can put the block of Monterrey jack in the freezer for about five minutes (no longer). It will firm up enough for the machine to shred, but not do any damage to the blades or the cheese.
My Hamilton Beach Food Processor has the plate that allowed for easy shredding (and makes me love the machine so very very much), just make sure your cheese is cut into pieces that can fit into the feeder tube on the machine before you freeze it. My block needed to be divided into three sections.
I personally like glass carafe blenders as they don’t stain and don’t retain any odors from previous blending, but that is a personal choice.
With the ancho spice mix, the dish tastes like it took hours to prepare even though it took almost no time at all. We occasionally like to use this mix on pasta in place of traditional red sauce or just as something to smear on a baguette. It is a great and super easy burst of flavor. Just don’t forget your minute on the heat with it because that is what really wakes up and melds the flavors.
It is a great sauce to have in your flavor arsenal. And until you add the pork to the skillet and top with cheese, the ancho spice mix is actually vegan. When we have vegan, vegetarian or even just lactose intolerant friends over, the spice mix comes in really handy used in ways without the pork or cheese of course.
The one thing we have to watch is the spice level. There are several places to control it. You can leave in or take out the ancho seeds. You can also adjust the cayenne. In our house, since we grow paprika peppers and dry and grind our own paprika each fall, our paprika is what we have to watch. It is really hot in the fall but towards the spring it mellows out a bit. It still has more of a kick than most store bought paprika though. I used the spring paprika measurements for this dish, you might find you want a little more heat depending on what paprika you are using so don’t forget to taste and adjust.
So tonight our happy hour is rolling into dinner and out cocktails are non-alcoholic just to be on the vaccine reactions safe side. Still with a pretty glass filled with cheery bubbling liquid and an absolutely delicious choriqueso on hand, it is in no way a hardship. In fact, it feels quite luxurious and like the perfect way to unwind after a rough week. Happy Friday my darlings and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.