My friend Katie, who works in the wine industry here in the Finger Lakes with Wagner Vineyards, has an incredibly deep network of connections with other wine industry folk both here locally and in New York City, where she travels often for business. This week she had her friend from New York, Emma, in town for a little bit of business and a little bit of pleasure. We decided to get together and have a girls night last night and, of course, dinner and wine had to be involved. I had the day off and I knew those two were busy with work so I started menu planning right away.
I happen to know that Katie has a Vitamix blender! My blender’s blade broke a long time ago and I have been so lazy and have procrastinated ordering the five dollar piece to make it functional again, but even so, when my blender is at full capacity it’s got nuthin on a Vitamix. So, I decided to prepare something to fully utilize this amazing kitchen appliance!
Dinner was not only delicious and fairly easy to prepare despite the laundry list of ingredients but the much needed girl time and relaxation was such a treat! Emma made us a delightful play on a Kir Royale to start off the evening and we enjoyed those with dinner as well. She used the amazingly complex, sweet and smoky Cassis Liqueur from Finger Lakes Distilling along with Wagner Riesling for her smooth sipping version of the classic. For dessert, I treated us to PB and J trifles using layers of my dark chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting and a triple berry jam which paired perfectly with Wagner’s Cabernet Franc! Great success!
Chile Braised Chicken Tostadas with Roasted Sweet Potato, Sauteed Kale, Spiced Black Beans and Avocado Crema
For the Chicken and Sauce:
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 onions, one thinly sliced, one cut into eighths
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 ounces dried New Mexico chiles, tops removed and seeds shaken out
- 1 ounce dried Guajillo chiles, tops removed and seeds shaken out
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, stems and all
- 1 handful fresh oregano, stems and all
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large navel orange, cut into eighths (do not peel)
- juice of one lime
- 4 cups water
- salt to taste
For the Avocado Crema:
- 12 ounces sour cream
- 1 avocado, pit removed and flesh scooped out
- salt to taste
- juice of a lime
Other goodies you will need:
- 1 can black beans, juice and all
- 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and ground coriander
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 3 small or 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon chile powder
- juice of half of a lime, the other half can be cut into wedges for squeezing over the top
- olive oil, salt and pepper
- 2 “taco-sized” corn tortillas per person
- queso fresco
- fresh cilantro, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a deep baking dish, arrange the sliced onion along the bottom to form a nice bed for the thighs. Pat the thighs dry with a paper towel, season liberally with salt and pepper and place into the baking dish atop the onions.
Bring 4 cups of water to boil on the stovetop. In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the dried chiles. Add the bay leaves and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 10-15 minutes. If some of the chiles are rising to the top and poking out, you may want to anchor them with a small plate so they stay submerged.
When the chiles have rehydrated, remove them with tongs to the pitcher of a Vitamix blender. Strain the water into the pitcher through a sieve to catch any renegade seeds. Add the lime juice, cilantro, oregano, garlic cloves, onion chunks and orange chunks to the pitcher along with the chiles and their water. Season with salt. Blend on high for one minute to make sure everything is well pureed. Taste and season again if necessary. Pour half of this sauce all over the chicken thighs and save the other half for another recipe. Trust me, you’ll use it, it’s delicious!
Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and braise the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until cooked through and easily shredded with a fork. When cooled slightly, remove chicken thighs from dish and shred meat with two forks. Discard the bones (or save them for stock) and return the pulled chicken to the sauce.
To prepare the avocado crema, add the sour cream, lime juice, avocado flesh and salt to the pitcher of the blender and blend until smooth. Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
While the chicken is cooking, toss the diced sweet potato with a teaspoon of chile powder, the juice of half of a lime, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in the 350 oven for 35-40 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To prepare the kale, simply saute with the two cloves of garlic in a skillet over medium heat in a little olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet over medium heat, add in the can of black beans, juice and all, and season with a tiny pinch of salt along with the cumin and coriander. Heat through and keep warm on the stove until ready to use.
To prepare the tortillas, simply shallow fry them in a pan with some olive oil until golden brown on both sides and crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and season with salt.
To put it all together, lay the fried tortillas down onto your plate. Top with a pinch of kale and sprinkling of the roasted sweet potatoes. Pour on a portion of the black beans and top with the shredded chicken in the sauce. Spoon a little more the sauce over the whole shebang. Sprinkle with queso fresco, dollop on the rich avocado crema, top with fresh cilantro, serve with a lime wedge and enjoy!! I served two tostadas per person which proved to be an excellent amount of food, especially when combined with cake trifles for dessert!!