Saturday, October 25, 2008

Peruvian Cilantro Stew

A while back, I bought some frozen aji amarillo chiles from a local market. I didn't know what I was going to do with them - heck, I had never seen them before. But I bought them because they were a beautiful orange, and chiles are always good.

What do you do when you have an unknown ingredient? Check out the internet, specifically other food blogs, of course! So that's what I did, and found Peruvian Cilantro Stew from Gretchen Noelle of Canela y Comino. Her blog is one of my favorites, and I figured that since she lives in Peru, I could trust her judgment when it came to these brightly colored chiles.

My only hitch with the recipe was when it came to pureeing the cilantro. A cup of cilantro puree is quite a lot, so I figured my blender would be helpful. I figured wrong. The stupid leaves just spun up and stuck to the sides of the blender. I tried pushing them back down, but they spun right back up again. So, cutting board and big knife. I chopped and chopped and chopped, until the sound of the knife cutting through the cilantro was less of a crunch, and more of a mush. (What I wouldn't give for a mezzaluna.)

This isn't a quick recipe, and there's a lot of hands-on, but it is so worth it. Beef marinated and then browned. Onion is sauteed, then cooked down with a puree of aji amarillo chiles, onion and garlic. Then beer and the cilantro "puree" are added, and it's cooked down further. Then you add the beef back, cook for about an hour, then add in carrots and peas, and cook until the veggies are done.

The sauce is so amazingly good, I couldn't stop myself from dipping pieces of bread into it as it was cooking. Think pesto, but cilantro. And beefy flavored. Mmm...

The meat ended up perfectly tender, due to its braise in beer, and the chiles added just the right amount of heat. I had originally planned to serve this with rice, but MIL came home with a bunch of sourdough loaves, so we had it with bread. I loved sopping up every last bit of the sauce with the crusty bread. However, I'm dying to know what the sauce tastes like over rice, so I guess I'll just have to make it again to find out.

Thanks, Gretchen Noelle, for a great recipe!


The Blonde Duck said...

I love the picture of the chihuahua on your profile! And the stew looks great!

Vicki said...

Hi Blonde Duck - the chi is my baby, Chula. And the stew was out of this world! Thanks for visiting!

Sharon said...

I'll have to find some of these mystery ingredients! :) Looks like a perfect, hearty stew for the cooler nights!

Vicki said...

Hi Sharon -
I found the chiles at Vallarta in Escondido - I'm sure there are lots of places in SD (i.e. Latino markets) that have them too. And honestly I think this dish would be tasty even without the mystery chiles.

Gretchen Noelle said...

I am SO glad you enjoyed this recipe. It is really one of my favorites. The same can be done with chicken and I imagine the second or third time around, you'll find it easier and easier to throw together. I hope you find some other ideas for your chiles as well!

Vicki said...

Hi Gretchen Noelle -
I was thinking of trying it with pork shoulder. For the chiles, I might make cochinita pibil, and use the orange chiles instead of habaneros.
Thanks again for the recipe!

kellypea said...

This sounds really, really yummy. I love cilantro and chilies! I always use the internet to help me decide what to make. Especially when I have hodgepodge in the house. I'm amazed at what's out there. This is a dish I'd love to try.

Vicki said...

Hi Kellypea -
I can't imagine cooking without the internet - there are entire ethnic cuisines that I never would have been able to try! (And yes, try the stew, it's really good)